Severe Allergic Reactions

Severe Allergic Reactions

Severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, is a serious medical emergency. It is a multi-system reaction to an allergen, and can cause death if not treated quickly. Most cases of anaphylaxis are caused by a reaction to food, medications, stinging or biting insects, and latex. Other allergens may cause anaphylactic reactions as well. Signs and symptoms can include trouble breathing, hives, swelling of the face, lips, throat or tongue, dizziness, and feeling lightheaded.

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, and if suspected, medical help should be sought immediately. If the person is known to have a severe allergy, they should carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times. Seeking medical help is important for both diagnosis and treatment. Emergent intravenous fluids, antihistamines, and corticosteroids are often used to help reduce the symptoms of anaphylaxis.

It is important for people who have severe allergies to know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. People should be aware of their environment and be willing to take precautions to prevent an allergic reaction. Checking restaurant menus, asking questions about ingredients, and avoiding potential allergens are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis can vary, but usually occur very quickly after exposure to an allergen. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Anxiety or a sense of doom
  • Loss of consciousness


The primary treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine, which can be administered through an auto-injector, such as an EpiPen or Auvi-Q. Epinephrine should be administered as soon as the symptoms are noticed, even if the symptoms seem mild. Delayed epinephrine treatment can be more dangerous than administering it too early. After epinephrine is administered, someone should call 911 immediately. Other treatments include antihistamines and corticosteroids.

If a person has a severe allergy, it is important that they check with their doctor to make sure they are carrying an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times. It is also important to be aware of potential allergens and take steps to avoid them. If anaphylaxis occurs, seek medical help immediately.