Sometimes, exposure to an allergen can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This severe reaction happens when an over-release of chemicals puts the person into shock.
Allergies to food, insect stings, medications, and latex are among the most frequent causes.
Anaphylaxis may begin suddenly and may lead to death if not immediately treated.
A second anaphylactic reaction, known as a biphasic reaction, can occur as much as 12 hours after the initial reaction.
Call 911 and get to the nearest emergency facility at the first sign of anaphylaxis, even if you have already administered epinephrine, the drug used to treat severe allergic reactions. Just because an allergic person has never had an anaphylactic reaction in the past to an offending allergen, doesn’t mean that one won’t occur in the future. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past, you are at risk of future reactions.
Anaphylaxis includes a wide range of symptoms that can occur quickly in many combinations. The early symptoms may be mild and non-life-threatening, such as a runny nose, a skin rash or a “strange feeling.” These symptoms can quickly lead to more serious problems.
Many different parts of your body can be affected:
- Skin—itching, hives, redness, swelling
- Nose—sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose
- Mouth—itching, swelling of lips or tongue
- Throat—itching, tightness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness
- Chest—difficulty breathing, cough, wheezing, chest pain, tightness
- Heart—cardiac arrest, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, shock
- GI tract—vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
- Nervous system—dizziness or fainting
When you begin to experience symptoms, you must seek immediate medical attention because anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.
The best way to understand anaphylaxis and the things that can trigger this severe allergic reaction is to see a specialist who will help you manage your condition.