Asthma & Allergy

Causes, symptoms, and treatment of anaphylaxis

Causes, symptoms, and treatment of anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is a rare and severe allergic reaction. In comparison to common allergies that exhibit mild to moderate symptoms, an anaphylaxis reaction is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

The allergic reaction occurs as a person’s immune system becomes sensitized to the venom or the allergen. A subsequent exposure to the same allergen causes a chemical reaction that exhibits symptoms similar to those of common allergies experienced by a person.

Here are the most common symptoms of anaphylaxis:

Noticeable symptoms
Anaphylaxis affects ones breathing and blood circulation mainly. The symptoms are sudden in case of an anaphylactic attack and the severity of the symptoms quickly escalate making the condition life-threatening. Serious indicators include trouble breathing, hives, swelling, tightness of the throat, hoarse voice, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and even cardiac arrest in some cases.

Known causes and triggers
External allergens commonly cause an allergic reaction and the chances of accidental exposure are high despite taking the necessary precautions. Allergens present in foods including peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, cow’s milk, soy, eggs, and wheat can trigger a person to go into anaphylactic shock. Biting or stinging insects including honeybees, fire ants, yellow jackets, yellow hornets, and paper wasps can also trigger anaphylaxis. An allergic reaction is also possible with certain B-lactams, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and biological modifiers.

Management and treatment of anaphylaxis
An anaphylactic reaction must be treated immediately with an adrenaline injection, preferably epinephrine. Note that the epinephrine injections can be administered without the supervision of a certified professional as these medications come in auto-injector doses. However, one can acquire the injections only with a prescription as the dosage will directly depend on the severity of the symptoms. While there is a cure available for anaphylaxis, the triggers of an anaphylactic shock can be managed to avoid the reaction firsthand.

  • Knowing the trigger
    The first step to avoiding an allergic reaction is knowing the possible triggers of the same. Anaphylaxis can be triggered due to allergens in certain foods, insect bites, and certain medications. Once the trigger is identified, precautions can be taken to avoid the trigger completely.
  • Spread Awareness
    It is important to educate oneself and be aware of the noticeable signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. Note that the allergic reaction can be fatal and one must be prepared to make the necessary arrangements to counter the sudden and rapid onset of the condition. Follow the medical plan outlined by a doctor and be prepared to self-administer an epinephrine injection. One must also inform and educate people around to step in and take charge in case of a severe anaphylactic attack. Family and friends must be aware of the condition and must know how to handle the situation in case of an emergency.
  • Seek medical attention
    In case the epinephrine injection doesn’t manage the symptoms effectively, one must seek medical attention, preferably consult with an allergy specialist. Allergists are better trained to identify the specific symptoms, review the tests, and advise a specific treatment for the condition.

The S.A.F.E protocol
People who are at a high risk of having an allergic reaction must be aware of the SAFE protocol for anaphylaxis. One must,

  • S-Seek immediate help and call 911.
  • A-Identify the allergen to narrow down specific symptoms.
  • F-Follow up with a specialist along with a consultation by one’s general physician.
  • E-Always carry epinephrine for emergencies.