Anaphylaxis is a type of severe allergic reaction that is a potentially life-threatening condition. It can occur when you’ve been exposed to something that triggers your allergy such as animal fur, feathers, bee stings, peanuts, and etcetera. This causes your immune system to release a flood of chemicals in your body which can cause shock. Certain foods, medications, venom from insects and latex are common triggers of anaphylaxis.
An injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room is crucial to preventing anaphylaxis from becoming fatal. If epinephrine is unavailable, then a trip to the emergency room is immediately required.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis can occur within a few minutes of exposure to the allergen, however, sometimes the symptoms can occur thirty (30) minutes or longer after exposure to the allergen.
The immune system produces antibodies which are used in fighting off harmful and foreign substances that enter our bodies such as bacteria or viruses. An allergic reaction is where the immune system starts fighting substances that aren’t harmful.
Common causes of anaphylaxis are a food allergy, certain medications, stings from insects such as bees or wasps, pollen, and etcetera.
If you’re not sure or you don’t know what triggers your anaphylaxis attack, there are certain tests that can help identify the allergen.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
- Skin reactions such as hives, itching, pale or flushed skin
- Low blood pressure
- Constriction of the airways
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
Seek medical attention if you, or someone you know, is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away as it might worsen. If the person who is having an attack is carrying epinephrine autoinjector, it is important that you administer it immediately. A trip to the emergency room is still necessary even if the symptoms appear to improve to ensure that the symptoms don’t recur.
There aren’t many risk factors for anaphylaxis but there are a few factors that can increase your risk of anaphylaxis, these include:
- Previous anaphylaxis, as this can increase your risk of having a severe allergic reaction. The future reactions may also be more severe than the first.
- Allergies or asthma, as it can increase your risk of anaphylaxis.
- Certain conditions, such as heart disease.
Anaphylaxis can cause life-threatening complications as it can stop your breathing or your heartbeat.
There are numerous ways to prevent anaphylaxis, the best way is to avoid exposure to the substances that trigger allergic reactions, but also include:
- Have an emergency first aid kit that includes all the prescribed medication that you need.
- Alert all your doctors to the reactions that you get from medication.
- Use caution around insects if you have an allergic reaction to them. Wear long-sleeved clothing and pants, avoid walking barefoot on grass, avoid bright colored clothing to prevent the attention of bees, avoid using cologne or perfumes and don’t leave sweet beverages exposed in the open as it may attract bees.
- Carefully read all the labels of the foodstuffs that you consume if you have a food allergy to avoid any reactions.