What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can cause potentially life-threatening. It happens within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to, such as a peanut or the venom from a bee sting.
People who have had a severe allergic reaction are at risk for future reactions. Even if your first reaction is mild, future reactions might be more severe. One has an anaphylaxis need to give an emergency treatment immediately. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated right away, it can lead to stopping breathing or stop your heartbeat.
Understanding anaphylaxis and the things that can trigger this severe allergic reaction will help you manage your condition.
How common is anaphylaxis?
This health condition is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?
The common symptoms of anaphylaxis are:
- Skin reactions, including hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin;
- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips or throat;
- Constriction of the airways, leading to wheezing and trouble breathing;
- A weak and rapid pulse;
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
- Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness.
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?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes anaphylaxis?
Antibodies are the protectors of your body that defend against foreign substances (certain bacteria or viruses). However, some people’s immune systems overreact to substances (a peanut or the venom from a bee sting) that cause an allergic reaction. Normally, allergy symptoms aren’t life-threatening. But some people have a severe allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylaxis. The flood of chemicals released by your immune system during anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock; your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing.
Common anaphylaxis triggers include:
- 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;
- Certain medication: aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Aleve, Midol Extended Relief).
Less common causes of anaphylaxis include:
- Medications used in anesthesia;
Anaphylaxis triggered by exercise is not common and varies from person to person. In some people, aerobic activity includes jogging, triggers anaphylaxis. In others, less intense physical activity such as walking can trigger a reaction. Eating certain foods before exercise or exercising when the weather is hot, cold or humid also has been linked to anaphylaxis in some people. Talk with your doctor about any precautions you should take when exercising.
If you don’t know what triggers your allergy attack, your doctor may do tests to try to identify the offending allergen. In some cases, the cause of anaphylaxis is never identified. This is known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.
What increases my risk for anaphylaxis?
There are many risk factors for anaphylaxis, such as:
- Experienced anaphylactic reaction in the past.
- Certain medications, especially penicillin.
- A family history. If you have family members who’ve experienced exercise-induced anaphylaxis, your risk of developing this type of anaphylaxis is higher than it is for someone without a family history.
- Allergies or asthma. People who have either condition are at increased risk of having anaphylaxis.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is anaphylaxis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your allergies or any previous allergic reactions you’ve had. You may take some tests to confirm the diagnosis such as skin tests or blood tests.
Your doctor will want to rule out other conditions as a possible cause of your symptoms, including:
- Seizure disorders;
- A condition other than allergies that cause flushing or other skin symptoms;
- Mastocytosis, an immune system disorder;
- Psychological issues, such as panic attacks;
- Heart or lung problems.
How is anaphylaxis treated?
During an anaphylactic attack, an emergency medical team may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. You may be given medications including:
- Epinephrine (adrenaline) to reduce your body’s allergic response.
- Oxygen,to help compensate for restricted breathing.
- Intravenous (IV) antihistamines and cortisone to reduce inflammation of your air passages and improve breathing.
- A beta-agonist (such as albuterol) to relieve breathing symptoms.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage anaphylaxis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with anaphylaxis:
- Avoid your known allergy triggers as much as you can.
- Using an auto-injector. You may need to carry self-administered epinephrine.
- Tell family and friends. Family and friends should be aware of your condition, your triggers and know how to recognize anaphylactic symptoms. If you carry epinephrine, alert them to where you keep it and how to use it.
- Wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet to indicate if you have an allergy to specific drugs or other substances.
- Keep a properly stocked emergency kit with prescribed medications available at all times.
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.
Anaphylaxis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anaphylaxis/basics/treatment/con-20014324. Accessed September 25, 2016.
Anaphylaxis. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/anaphylaxis-allergies. Accessed September 25, 2016.
Review Date: October 10, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019