What Is Anaphylaxis?
A severe allergy which occur very quickly after the exposure to their allergen and can result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to venom, food, or medication. Most reactions are caused by a bee sting or eating foods that are known to cause allergies, such as peanuts or tree nuts.
Anaphylaxis causes a series of symptoms, including a rash,slow pulse rate, and shock, which is known as anaphylactic shock. This can be fatal if it isn’t treated urgently.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, your healthcare provider will probably suggest that you carry a medication called epinephrine with you at all times. This medication can stop future reactions from becoming so dangerous and fatal.
Recognizing The Signs of Anaphylaxis
Symptoms generally occur immediately after you come into contact with the allergen. These can include:
- abdominal pain
- rashes or hives
- slurred speech
- facial swelling
- fast heart rate
- low pulse
- difficulty swallowing
- itchy skin
- swelling in mouth and throat
- nausea and vomiting
What Causes Anaphylaxis?
Your body is in continuous contact with foreign substances. It produces antibodies to defend itself from these substances. In majority of cases, the body doesn’t react to the antibodies being released. However, in the case of anaphylaxis, the immune system overreacts in a way that leads to a full-body allergic reaction.
Common causes of anaphylaxis include medications, general anesthetics, nuts, insect stings, fish, shellfish, and milk. Other causes may include exercise and latex.
How Is Anaphylaxis Diagnosed?
You will most likely be diagnosed with anaphylaxis if the following symptoms are present:
- mental confusion
- swelling in throat
- weakness or dizziness
- blue skin
- difficulty breathing
- rapid or abnormal heart rate
- facial swelling
- low blood pressure
While you are in the emergency room, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen for crackling sounds when you breathe. Crackling sounds could specify fluid in the lungs.
After treatment is done, your healthcare provider will ask questions to recognize if you’ve had allergies before.
How Is Anaphylaxis Treated?
If you or someone near you starts to develop symptoms of anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.
If you have had a past episode, use your epinephrine medication at the beginning of the symptoms and then call 911.
If you’re helping someone who is having an attack, console them that help is on the way. Lay the person on their back. Elevate their feet up 12 inches, and cover them with a blanket.
If the person has been stung, use a plastic card to put pressure to the skin an inch below the stinger. Slowly slide the card towards the stinger. Once the card is under the stinger, sweep the card upward to remove the stinger from the skin. Don’t use tweezers. Squeezing the stinger will inject more venom. If the person has emergency allergy medication available, administer it to them. Don’t try to give the person an oral medication if they’re having difficulty breathing.
If the person has stopped breathing or their heart beat has stopped , CPR will be essential.
At the hospital, people with anaphylaxis are given adrenaline, the common name for epinephrine, medication to control or reduce the reaction. If you’ve already administrated this medication to yourself or had someone administer it to you, inform the healthcare provider.
Additionally, you may receive oxygen, cortisone, an antihistamine, or a fast-acting beta-agonist inhaler.
What Are the Complications of Anaphylaxis?
Some people may go into anaphylactic shock. It’s also possible to stop breathing or experience airway obstruction due to the swelling of the airways. Sometimes, it can lead to a heart attack. All of these complications are potentially deadly.
How Do You Prevent Anaphylaxis?
Avoid the allergen that can stimulate a reaction. If you are regarded at risk for having anaphylaxis, your healthcare provider will advise you carry adrenaline medication, such as epinephrine injector, to counter the reaction.
The injectable version of this medication is generally stored in a device called an auto-injector. An auto-injector is a small device that contains a syringe filled with a single dose of the medication. As soon as you start having symptoms of anaphylaxis, press the auto-injector against your thigh. Always check the expiration date and replace any auto-injector that is due to expire.
- About anaphylaxis. (n.d.). Retrieved from
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. Anaphylaxis: Definition. (2013, January 16)