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Epinephrine, a form of synthetic adrenaline, is a drug that treats severe allergic reactions and other problems that cause a constriction of airways. The medicine causes muscle relaxation, which is a positive effect when used to treat some allergic reactions. Less positive effects of epinephrine range from minor problems to serious ones that can cause death. Known as a sympathomimetic agent, epinephrine is a powerful drug that affects the body quickly.
People with severe allergies to foods, medications, insect bites and other allergens often have swelling in their airways during an attack. The most severe of these reactions, called anaphylaxis, can cause the throat to swell shut and lead to death within a few minutes. Epinephrine works in these instances by relaxing all of the muscles around the head and neck. As the muscles relax, the person will be able to breath without problem. While the patient may need additional medical treatment after taking epinephrine, he or she is less likely to die from the allergic reaction.
For people who take epinephrine for allergies, a so-called epi pen often is the preferred method of giving the medication. Many people with anaphylactic allergies keep an epi pen available at all times because of the rapidity with which one should take the medication. The patient will have a prescription for the typical dose he or she needs to take. When the patient comes into contact with the allergen, someone will need to open the pen, screw on a needle tip and inject the epinephrine. The effects of epinephrine begin quickly.
While epinephrine works well for many people, the side effects of epinephrine can be dangerous. The minor side effects include headaches and nausea and can be treated simply by sitting down and resting. These side effects are not typically dangerous but can be bothersome. More serious side effects of epinephrine use include vomiting, dizziness and weakness. A person who has these side effects should report them to a doctor to see about using a different medication in the future.
The most serious of the side effects of epinephrine are irregular or faster heartbeat and high blood pressure. Signs of unusually high blood pressure include blurred vision, incoherent speech, extreme dizziness and tingling sensations. These side effects can be damaging and potentially life-threatening, and a sufferer likely will need to see a doctor. Epinephrine is an effective but strong drug with side effects that should be monitored in anyone who takes it.
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