Anaphylaxis/Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a serious, sometimes under-estimated, life-threatening allergic reaction. The most common culprits are foods, insect stings, medications and latex. Risk factors for anaphylaxis include having a family history of anaphylaxis. Also, your risk is higher if you previously had anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions.

What causes anaphylaxis?

While food, insect stings, medications and latex can trigger anaphylaxis, it is a condition brought on by an overreaction of the immune system.

The onset of symptoms from anaphylaxis is from the sudden release of chemicals by the immune system that travel around the body interfering with normal bodily functions, such as breathing and circulation.

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, itching, flushed skin and pale skin
  • A rapid, weak pulse
  • A feeling of warmth
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat
  • TIghtening of the airways and a swollen tongue or throat, causing breathing problems and wheezing
  • Nausea, fainting or dizziness, sometimes followed by vomiting or diarrhea

What is the treatment for anaphylaxis?

Immediate medical treatment is essential. This likely includes injection of epinephrine and then a hospital emergency room visit. Untreated anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Accurate diagnosis and successful management of anaphylaxis is essential, and should follow any emergency room visit and any other suspicious events. An allergist has specialized training and experience in diagnosing the problem, reviewing precipitating triggers, conducting appropriate tests, teaching you how to use life-saving medication, and advising you on an anaphylaxis emergency plan to protect you or your child in the future.