Anaphylaxis

A serious, life-threatening allergic reaction called Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is possible when the body overreacts to an allergen. The most common anaphylactic reactions are to medications, food, insect stings, and latex.

When your body is allergic to a substance, the body’s immune system may overreact to the allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. These symptoms typically occur in a single location of the body. However, some people may be susceptible to a much more serious anaphylactic reaction that can affect more than one part of the body simultaneously.

Anaphylaxis should be regarded as a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical treatment. An injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room is warranted by a reaction. If not treated properly, anaphylaxis can prove fatal.

While anyone can have anaphylaxis reaction, people with allergies and asthma and with a family history of anaphylaxis are higher risk. And, once you’ve experienced anaphylaxis your risk of having another episode is increased.

The first step in treating anaphylaxis is accurate diagnosis. One of our allergy physicians can diagnose and develop a treatment plan to help keep you comfortable and protect you in the future.

Symptoms

Anaphylaxis symptoms typically begin within 5 to 30 minutes of coming into contact with an allergen. In some instances you may not notice anaphylactic symptoms for more than an hour.

Reactions typically occur in more than one part of the body and may include:

  • Red rash, with hives/welts, usually itchy
  • Swollen throat or other swollen areas of the body
  • Hoarse voice
  • Wheezing
  • Passing out
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping
  • Pale or red color to the face and body
  • Feeling of impending doom

Diagnosis

To determine your risk of anaphylaxis or to determine if previous symptoms were anaphylaxis-related, our allergists will thoroughly examine your medical history and test for all potential causes. We’ll ask for specific details regarding all your previous allergic reactions.

Treatment & Management

We recommend the best ways to manage anaphylaxis are:

  • Avoid any allergens that may trigger an allergic reaction in your body
  • Always be prepared for an emergency

If you are at risk of anaphylaxis, it’s imperative that you carry autoinjectible epinephrine (adrenaline). This is a single dose of medication injected into the thigh to help arrest an anaphylactic emergency.

It’s also important that family members and others around you are familiar with use of the autoinjector.

Our allergy doctors will develop an anaphylaxis action plan to keep on file at school, work or other places where other people may need to recognize your symptoms and provide immediate treatment.

Important

Any time you think you’re having an anaphylactic reaction, inject your autoinjectible epinephrine and call 9-1-1 immediately. Don’t take an antihistamine or wait to see if symptoms get better. Your life depends on this.

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