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Do you know the sign for anaphylaxis?

As a former Communication Studies Professor, I have always been interested in how language and symbols develop.  Basically, they are all made up.  The key is that we have an agreement about their meaning.  Once we have agreement or common understanding, we have a new word or sign.  I could go into a lot more detail, but that is not my main goal for today.  Today, I want to make sure you know about an important new sign for people with allergies.  Because until most people know it, it is virtually useless.

What Would You Do?

If you were choking on a piece of food, how would you let people know you needed help?  Most people know that the universal symbol for choking is to wrap your hands around your throat.  Most likely you would do this and since most people know this sign, they would come to your aid.

If you were having a severe anaphylactic reaction, how would you let people know you needed help?  What if it is too hard to speak or no one is right near you to hear you tell them you need epinephrine.  What would you do?  The symbol for choking would not help you, in fact it would likely send the wrong message.

How would you know to help someone else who was having an anaphylactic reaction?

Do you know THE Sign?

Fortunately, we now have an amazing sign to tell people when we need an epinephrine injection.  You need to know the sign in order to send it. And people who see you doing it, need to know what it means.  Do you know the sign for needing epinephrine?  The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team, FAACT as most of us know them, call it fist to thigh.

The Sign

Close your hand into a fist and stab it against your thigh as if using an auto-injector.  Pause and repeat.  The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) has created a great video to demonstrate this sign in action.  Click here to watch this lifesaving video from FAACT.

In order to save lives, we need to make sure that everyone knows this sign.

What you can do

Unless everyone knows this sign, you will be pounding your fist to your thigh in vain.  So, what can you do?  Tell everyone you know about this sign.  Share the FAACT video on all of your social media, make sure people you work with and see often know about this sign.  It might save your life, or it might save someone else’s life.

A Quick Test

Do a quick internet search on “universal sign of choking.”  Do you get several pictures and discussions about how to wrap your hands around your neck?  This sign has become well known.  It has achieved that goal of all language and signs, to be known.  Now do the same search only change choking to anaphylaxis.  Does “universal sign of anaphylaxis” bring up any pictures?  Unfortunately, my search did not.  I hope that by the time you take this test, I am wrong, and you get just as many hits as you did for choking.  That is not going to happen until we all make the effort to learn and teach this sign.

Fist to thigh, share the sign!

 

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