Anaphylaxis is important to understand. It’s a type of rapid, severe allergic reaction capable of causing death. It may occur directly after a bite or sting, or in some cases it can take up to an hour. Immediate treatment is necessary if you find yourself in this medical emergency. You’ll also need to seek care from an allergist as a follow-up.
Overreactions of the immune system are what trigger Anaphylaxis. Food, medicines, and other harmless substances can pose problems if they offend an underlying allergy. Symptoms of these reactions range from very mild to life-threatening. The strongest overreactions of the immune system can threaten the body’s organ systems.
Anaphylaxis leads to different symptoms in different people. However, a list of common effects would have to include:
- Respiratory symptoms: upper torso tightness, wheezing, shallow breathing, coughing, swelling or tightness in the throat, itching in the mouth and throat, and nasal congestion
- Cardiovascular symptoms: lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, lightheadedness, dizziness, pale or blue appearance
- Epidermal symptoms: large number of hives, itching, redness around the eyes and all over
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea
- General symptoms: anxiety
Most importantly, if you are losing consciousness, suffering from very low blood pressure, or labored breathing, you must seek urgent help. You should call 911 right away because all of these symptoms can be fatal.
Depending on the person, many different things can cause anaphylaxis. Common triggers include:
- Foods: any type of food is capable of triggering a reaction, but peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, and milk are the most common offenders.
- Medications: as with food, any medication could prompt a reaction, but antibiotics and anti-seizure prescriptions are most likely to cause trouble
- Stinging insects: Hornets, honeybees, yellow jackets, paper wasps, and fire ants all have venom that is injected during a bite or sting. Some people have severe or fatal reactions in these situations.
- Latex: Certain natural rubber products contain latex that may cause an allergic reaction.
Do not delay in seeking medical attention if you believe you are experiencing anaphylaxis. Fast treatment can help you minimize the effects of your reaction.
An auto-injectable epinephrine pen may also make a difference. People with severe allergies can receive prescriptions for these adrenaline shots. They can help you raise your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as improve any breathing problems during a severe reaction. For maximum safety, you should carry it with you all the time. An antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl is a common brand) can help with hives and itching. An oral steroid might be able to further reduce any inflammation.
It’s also important to wear a medical bracelet that alerts doctors or emergency responders to your allergic condition. You should also tell family, friends, employers, co-workers, and school staff about your condition. Informing the people around you increases the chance of a fast, accurate response in the event of an emergency.