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Preventive and Follow-Up Care for Hereditary Angioedema Attacks

Medically reviewed by Graham Rogers, MD on May 17, 2016Written by Sarah Keller on May 17, 2016
hae prevention and care

Acute attacks of hereditary angioedema (HAE) are unpredictable, and they can make your daily life difficult. Untreated symptoms usually get worse over 24 to 36 hours and can take one to three days to go away.

Severe attacks, on the other hand, may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids to treat dehydration. They may even require an emergency tracheostomy to open an airway.

If you’ve just had an HAE attack, you’ll want to take some time to regroup and assess the attack.

What should I do after an HAE attack?

Here are some steps you should take right after an HAE attack:

1. Rest and rehydrate

If you’ve just suffered an HAE attack, you may be fatigued or dehydrated. These symptoms are even more common if you suffered stomach inflammation that led to diarrhea or vomiting. For this reasons, it’s important to rehydrate with plenty of fluids.

2. Refill your medication

If you self-administered your treatment, make sure you refill your prescription right away. This will ensure you’re ready in case of another attack. The U.S. HAE Association recommends that everyone with HAE due to C1 inhibitor deficiency has two standard doses of medication on hand at all times.

3. Log your attack

If you’re keeping a log of your attacks, record it as soon as possible and include:

  • what you were doing before the attack
  • what you ate
  • the symptoms you had
  • the severity of the attack
  • how you treated it
  • your response to treatment

Right after an attack is a good time to consider if everything went according to your treatment or emergency plan. If it didn’t, talk to your doctor about adjusting your plan or your medication.

Preventing future attacks

Here are some things you can do to stop attacks from occurring in the first place.

Identify triggers

HAE attacks can happen for no apparent reason. Sometimes they’re linked to triggering events or activities. If you can learn which events trigger your attacks, it will help you avoid those situations, or at least anticipate them. Keeping a diary of your attacks can help you discover what triggers your symptoms.

Some HAE triggers include:

  • anxiety or stress
  • dental work
  • surgery
  • medications
  • illnesses
  • certain foods
  • certain physical activities and environmental factors

Take preventive medication

If you’re not already taking preventive medication, you may wish to discuss it with your doctor. Preventive medications include androgens and C1 inhibitors. There are many factors to consider before deciding on preventive medication, including:

  • possible side effects
  • expense
  • your access to emergency treatment
  • your overall health

While preventive medications make attacks less likely, it’s still possible that they will happen. You will still need to have on-demand medication on hand and a plan for seeking emergency medical care.

Take on-demand medication early

Early treatment with on-demand medication can help keep you out of the hospital or emergency room. Even if you can’t prevent an attack, you can reduce its impact by identifying the early symptoms of your flare-ups and treating them as soon as you feel an attack starting.

Administering your medication at home is an important tool that aids in early treatment. If you aren’t already treating your symptoms at home, your doctor can give you more information about how to do so.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you have questions about your treatment plan or what to do before, during, or after an HAE attack.

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