What Is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction. It requires immediate treatment at a hospital emergency room, followed up by care and treatment with an allergist.
Many experience anaphylactic symptoms before realizing they have an allergy. Symptoms may appear within minutes or hours after exposure to an allergen. An allergist can diagnose the direct cause of anaphylactic reactions and offer a treatment plan to keep you safe.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
How do you know if you’re experiencing an anaphylactic reaction? Common symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:
- Shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, chest pain
- Low pulse, low blood pressure, dizziness, shock, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness
- Itching, swelling, redness, hive, rashes on the skin
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain, cramps
- Headache, anxiety, menstrual cramps, itchy/watery eyes
While some of these symptoms may not be extreme, the most dangerous reactions are difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and losing consciousness. These reactions can be fatal.
If you experience a serious reaction after eating food, being stung by an insect, or taking a medication – call 911 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to improve or go away on their own.
Common Causes of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis can be caused by ingestion, being stung by an insect, or by being exposed to a chemical. The following are common causes of anaphylactic reactions:
- Ingesting Food Products –The most common food products causing allergic reactions include peanuts, tree nuts (cashews, walnuts, etc.), wheat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products.
- Medication Allergies – While any medication can cause an allergic reaction, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications are the most common to cause anaphylaxis. Vaccines, pain medications, post-surgery fluids, blood products, and radiocontrast dyes may also cause a severe reaction.
- Insect Stings or Bites – Insect venom can cause fatal reactions in those allergic to their sting. Common insects causing reactions include wasps, honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, and fire ants.
- Latex Products – Natural latex contains allergens which can cause a reaction in sensitive patients. The main concern is when latex touches moist areas of the body or makes internal contact during surgery.
- Exercise – While uncommon, it’s possible to experience anaphylaxis following exercise. It is not typical after every exercise session, and may only occur after eating certain foods before you exercise.
How to Manage, Treat, and Prevent Anaphylaxis
The safest, most effective way to treat anaphylaxis is with auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenaline) followed by heading straight to the emergency room or calling 911 immediately. When a reaction is treated in the early stages, the results may be less severe.
After experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, visit an allergist for proper diagnosis. An allergist will review your medical history and conduct allergen tests to find the cause of your reaction.
To treat insect sting allergies, your allergist may suggest allergy shots (immunotherapy) to eliminate your risk. For medication allergies, certain procedures may allow you to safely use a medication.
If your allergist prescribes epinephrine, make sure you know how to use it and always refill when the prescription expires (typically each year). You should always carry this with you.
After being diagnosed by your allergist, inform your doctors, family, friends, and even coworkers about your allergy, including how to notice the signs and when to get help. If your child has a serious allergy, inform your child’s teacher and school staff. Make sure epinephrine is easily accessible. A medical identification bracelet can alert people to an allergy if you or your child goes into shock.
Anaphylaxis is an emergency condition, so make sure family and friends know to call 911 if you or someone you love is at risk.
To help manage your anaphylaxis risk and identify the culprit triggers, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment at one of our four convenient Jacksonville, FL area locations in Mandarin, on University Boulevard, on the Westside and in nearby Orange Park.
If you’ve experienced anaphylaxis, visit the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida at one of our four convenient Jacksonville locations for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Call us today a 904-730-4870 or contact us online.