Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, is a severe life-threatening allergic reaction that can take place within minutes or even seconds of exposure to an allergen. During anaphylaxis, the body's immune system reacts abnormally, releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. Because anaphylaxis is a systemic response to an allergen, it affects a number of different systems in the body at the same time.
Causes of Anaphylaxis
Although any allergen can produce anaphylaxis, inhaled allergens rarely do so. Individuals who have had allergic reactions in the past are at greater risk of anaphylaxis, particularly if such reactions have been severe. It is also possible for an individual to have an anaphylactic reaction with no known cause. The most common causes of anaphylaxis are food allergies, allergies to medications, allergic reactions to insect stings and reactions to latex.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis causes a wide range of symptoms in a short period of time. These may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Mental confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Tightness in the chest or throat
Diagnosis of Anaphylaxis
Some symptoms of anaphylaxis are the same as those of other serious medical problems. It is important that a qualified medical professional make the diagnosis so that the patient is treated appropriately. In addition to ruling out other causes for the patient's symptoms, the physician tries to determine the allergen that precipitated the anaphylactic reaction so proper steps can be taken to avoid a recurrence.
Treatment of Anaphylaxis
Treatment of anaphylaxis usually involves an injection of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, which quickly quells the allergic reaction. Many patients with serious allergies carry epinephrine injection kits with them at all times. This way, they are prepared and, in case of an emergency, can self-administer a lifesaving injection. Patients who have experienced anaphylaxis should always receive prompt medical treatment, even if the worst of the symptoms have been brought under control. Once the effect of the adrenaline wears off, patients may require continuing treatment. Such treatment may include:
- Oxygen therapy
- Intravenous fluids
Risks of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is always an emergency. As airways tighten and blood pressure drops, the body is in serious trouble. Without prompt medical treatment, the patient suffering an anaphylactic reaction may lose consciousness, or even die, in a short period of time.
Interested in learning more about how our Allergy & Asthma Treatments can help you? Call us at 409.892.7090 to schedule an appointment!