What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur in response to certain triggers, such as certain foods, drugs, or insect stings. Anaphylaxis typically involves multiple systems of the body, including the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, hives, wheezing, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, and swelling of the throat or tongue.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment. People who are prone to anaphylaxis should carry an auto-injector, such as an epinephrine pen, to inject themselves with if they experience symptoms of anaphylaxis.

What can trigger an Anaphylactic Reaction?

The most common triggers of anaphylaxis are foods, such as peanuts and shellfish. Other triggers include bee venom, penicillin, latex, and sulfites in food. In some cases, anaphylaxis may be triggered by exercise or exposure to cold temperatures.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylactic reactions can cause a wide range of signs and symptoms and vary in severity.

  • Skin reactions, such as hives, itching, and flushings
  • Swelling, especially of the face, lips, eyes, and throat
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting

Treatment of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. The goal of treatment is to halt the progression of anaphylaxis and reduce the severity of the symptoms. Treatment may include the use of epinephrine, steroids, and antihistamines. People who are prone to anaphylaxis should carry an emergency epinephrine kit with them at all times.

Preventing Anaphylaxis

People who are prone to anaphylaxis should take steps to identify and avoid potential triggers. They should also inform their doctor of any allergies they may have and carry an epinephrine pen or other emergency treatment with them at all times. Additionally, they should wear a medical alert bracelet so that doctors and other healthcare providers are aware of their allergies.