What Is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can be caused by exposure to certain allergens. The immune system becomes sensitized to a particular allergen (sensitizing dose), and later exposure to the offending allergen causes a severe, whole body allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is triggered when the immune system overreacts to a usually harmless substance (an allergen such as peanut or antibiotic like penicillin) causing mild to severe symptoms that affect various parts of the body. Symptoms usually appear within minutes to a few hours after eating a food, swallowing medication or being stung by an insect. Sometimes symptoms go away, and then return a few hours later, so it is important to get to a hospital (call 911) or seek medical care as soon as an anaphylactic reaction begins and to remain under medical observation for as long as the reaction and symptoms continue.

What Are Common Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis?

Symptoms normally occur within seconds to minutes, but can occur hours later after the exposure to the allergen. They include the following:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
  • Anxiety (impending sense of doom)
  • Chest pain/tightness
  • Confusion
  • Cough
  • Cramping of the uterus
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fainting, light-headedness, dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hives, itchiness
  • Hoarse voice
  • Itchy mouth/throat
  • Itchy/red/watery eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nasal congestion /stuffiness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Pale/blue color
  • Rash
  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
  • Shock
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin redness
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling
  • Wheezing

What Is The Treatment For Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency condition requiring immediate medical attention. Patients with known severe allergic reactions may carry EpiPen or other allergy medications and should be aided if needed.  If anaphylaxis occurs or the patient needs to use an EpiPen, the patient should seek medical care immediately.

How Can I Prevent Anaphylactic Shock?

The patient should try to avoid known allergens and should be monitored if experiencing an allergic reaction. On occasion, after being pretreated with corticosteroids and antihistamines, patients who have a history of drug allergies may safely be given the medication causing the allergic reaction.