What is anaphylactic shock?


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Know the basics

What is anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylaxis is defined to be an allergic reaction that can lead to unconsciousness or even death. It occurs when patient is allergic to food, medications, insect venom and latex. This reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to allergic agent in which blood pressure of patients drops suddenly and the blocked airway detains normal breathing.

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting.

Anaphylaxis requires patient going to emergency department and an injection of epinephrine.

How common is anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock is relatively common, occurring in up to 2% of population. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of anaphylactic shock?

The common symptoms of anaphylactic shock are:

  • Skin reactions, including itching, flushed or pale skin;
  • A feeling of warmth;
  • The sensation of a lump in throat;
  • Difficulty when breathing;
  • A weak and rapid pulse;
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

People must seek emergency medical help when having a severe allergic reaction such as listed above. Even if symptoms improve after an emergency by using epinephrine auto injection, patient should go to emergency department to make sure symptoms don’t return.

Make an appointment to see your doctor when having a severe allergy attack or any signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis in the past.

Know the causes

What causes anaphylactic shock?

There are many common allergic agents that can trigger anaphylactic shock, including:

  • Certain medications, especially penicillin;
  • Foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews), wheat (in children), fish, shellfish, milk and eggs;
  • Insect stings from bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets and fire ants.

Less common causes of anaphylaxis include:

  • Latex;
  • Medications: aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, intravenous contrast used in some X-Ray imaging tests;
  • Exercise: such as aerobic activity, taking foods before exercising, exercising when it’s hot, cold or humid.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for anaphylactic shock?

There are many risk factors for Anaphylactic shock, such as:

  • A personal history of anaphylaxis;
  • Allergies or asthma;
  • A family history.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is anaphylactic shock diagnosed?

Anaphylactic shock is diagnosed through questions about:

  • History of foods eaten;
  • Any medications took;
  • History of allergic when your skin has been exposed to latex;
  • Stings from any particular type of insect seem to cause your symptoms.

Your doctor might also request a skin tests or blood tests to diagnose allergy. You should keep a detailed list of what you eat to help your doctor identify the cause of your condition.

Tests to exclude others conditions with similar symptoms can be performed. Some conditions that have the same symptoms as anaphylactic shock are:

  • Tests for seizure disorders;
  • A condition other than allergies that causes flushing or other skin symptoms;
  • Mastocytosis, an immune system disorder;
  • Psychological issues, such as panic attacks;
  • Heart or lung problems.

How is anaphylactic shock treated?

Medications can be given in case of emergency including:

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline): reduce your body’s allergic response;
  • Oxygen: help breathing;
  • Antihistamine and cortisone injected intravenously: reduce inflammation of your air passages and improve breathing;
  • A beta-agonist (for example albuterol): relieve breathing symptoms.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage anaphylactic shock?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Anaphylactic shock:

  • Avoid your known allergy triggers as much as you can;
  • Carry self-administered epinephrine, if possible;
  • Take prednisone or antihistamines;
  • Alert your doctor to your drug allergiesbefore any prescription;
  • Exercise caution to stinging insects, when they’re nearby;
  • Carefully read the labelsof all the foods you buy and eat.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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