Anaphylaxis is a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention. If you’ve been through it or watched someone go through it before, you know. People most commonly have anaphylactic reactions to food, insect stings, medication, and latex.
Being allergic to a substance causes your immune system to overreact when you ingest or come in contact with that substance. Your body releases chemicals that cause allergy symptoms like a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, a rash, or something else. These symptoms are typically isolated to one part of the body.
However, in some cases, you can have an anaphylactic reaction, which affects more parts of the body than just one. It’s a condition that causes swelling in the esophagus, leading to suffocation if not treated right away.
You are at an increased risk for anaphylaxis if you have a family history of the condition or you already suffer from allergies or asthma. Even if you are not predisposed to anaphylaxis, you should know how to recognize the signs and symptoms in others.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs of anaphylaxis typically show up within minutes of being exposed to allergens. In rare cases, they may take half an hour or longer to kick in. These signs and symptoms include the following:
● Hives, itching, and pale or flushed skin
● Airway constriction, swollen throat or tongue, wheezing, and labored breathing
● Low blood pressure
● Weak, rapid pulse
● Dizziness or fainting
● Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
If you notice any of these signs, seek help immediately.
Going to the Doctor
If you, a child, or someone else seems to be having a severe allergic reaction to something, don’t wait for the symptoms to go away. Check to see if the person has an epinephrine auto injector. Many people who know they are predisposed to anaphylaxis will carry one.
If they have one, use it immediately and then go to the emergency room. If they do not have one, go immediately to the emergency room. An emergency room visit is critical either way to ensure that symptoms are treated properly and that they don’t recur. For a blocked airway, call an ambulance immediately. The EMTs can administer lifesaving care on the scene and while travelling to the hospital.
After a visit to the emergency room, always follow up with your primary physician or allergist. It’s important to seek a diagnosis and long-term care for anaphylaxis and the allergies that cause it. It’s a complicated condition that requires a doctor who specializes in allergy and immunology care.
Complications and Prevention of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. It can block your airway and cause you to stop breathing. Avoiding substances that cause this reaction is the best way to prevent it. However, there are times when you don’t know you’re severely allergic to something until you experience a reaction to it. You can even become allergic to things you’ve ingested multiple times in the past with no problem at all.
Once you discover substances that cause an anaphylactic reaction, there are several things you can do to prevent it from happening again and protect yourself. They include:
● Wearing medical jewelry like a bracelet or necklace to call attention to your allergy in case of an emergency when you cannot communicate with medical staff
● Carrying an emergency kit with prescription medications to treat your anaphylaxis like an epinephrine auto injector
● Telling all of your doctors about your allergies and allergic reactions
● Using caution around stinging insects if you know you’re allergic by wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding walking barefoot through the grass, and avoiding things that attract stinging insects like bright colors or sugary drinks
● Carefully reading all food labels if you have a food allergy and ask how dishes are prepared in restaurants
Even using these precautions doesn’t mean you’ll never come in contact with something you’re allergic to, but it does mean you’re better prepared for it when it happens. You and the people around you can respond quickly to the situation with the tools they need to protect you.
You’ll be able to temporarily slow or stop the reaction, giving you time to seek the appropriate medical attention to assess the situation and get it under control. Knowing the signs and having a plan is the best thing you can do to protect your health.