Anaphylaxis is commonly referred to as anaphylactic shock and is a life-threatening allergic response to foods, medications and various other environmental factors. It can result in hives, swelling, dilated blood vessels and a lower blood pressure. In some instances, a person will go into full shock and it can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Causes of Anaphylaxis
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, your immune system will react to an allergen if you are allergic to a substance by releasing chemicals that cause the symptoms. The reaction depends on the person as well as whether the substance has affected more than one part of the body simultaneously.
Common triggers for anaphylaxis include:
- Peanut butter
- Dairy products
- Sesame seeds
- Bee and wasp stings
Statistics released by FoodAllergy.org shows that approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies and some kind of food allergy reaction happens every three minutes – creating more than 200,000 emergency room visits annually. 8 foods account for 90 percent of the reactions and teenagers and young adults are the highest risk for severe/fatal allergic reactions.
There are also some medications that cause anaphylaxis, which is why a doctor will often ask if you are allergic to anything prior to prescribing a medication. Whether you are allergic to honey, bee stings, nuts or anything else, you want to disclose it just on the off chance that a medication includes one of these agents – or could have a similar makeup to trigger a reaction.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is diagnosed based upon the symptoms. Those who have a history of any kind of allergic reaction are also at a greater risk for developing more severe reactions later in life. Skin testing is often done to determine if a substance can cause an allergic reaction.
WebMD has listed the symptoms of anaphylaxis to include sweating, hives, swelling, itching, vomiting or diarrhea, dilated blood vessels and low blood pressure. If a person goes into anaphylactic shock, it can also include increased heart rate, dizziness or weakness, fainting and seizures.
Treatment for Anaphylaxis
There is only one form of treatment available for anaphylaxis that is a fast and effective treatment. Epinephrine by injection will send adrenaline into your system quickly in order to reverse the symptoms. The injection is commonly given through what is called an epi-pen. It looks like a large pen and is commonly administered in the thigh.
If you ever see someone who is having anaphylactic shock, it is important to call 911 and seek a medical professional immediately. CPR and various other measures may be needed to save a person’s life.
Once a person has gone into shock, he or she may require IV fluids as well as medicine to support their heart and circulatory functions. Once the shock has been stabilized, steroids and antihistamines may also be given in order to reduce the symptoms even further.
A person can go into anaphylaxis rapidly after being stung or consuming a food that they are allergic to. Most people who have known allergies and have severe reactions to them carry epi-pens with them in the event that they have to stab themselves with the adrenaline. They will often alert friends and family members to where the epi-pen is located, as well.
Are You at Risk?
The question that you may now be asking is if you are at risk for anaphylaxis. It depends on your age and what you have been exposed to as well as if you have a family history of food allergies. If everyone on your mom’s side of the family is allergic to bee stings or everyone on your dad’s side is allergic to peanuts, it may very well be the case that you are allergic as well, but it’s not always the case.
If you suspect that you are allergic to something, you don’t want to try to put it to the test without being close to a doctor. If you go into anaphylactic shock without an epi-pen nearby, it could be fatal.
Put it to the test in terms of talking to the doctor. You can always order an allergy test to be conducted so that you can see if you are in fact allergic to something. In most instances, if you have been exposed to something in the past and it hasn’t bothered you, you are probably fine. If you do start to see changes when you eat certain foods or are exposed to certain things, it may be worth making an appointment with your doctor to discuss the various concerns.