Overview of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is a serious, whole-body allergic reaction that needs to be treated immediately. The most common causes of anaphylaxis are drug allergies, food allergies and insect stings. On the other hand, pollen and inhaled allergens are rarely the cause. Symptoms will typically include: abdominal pain, chest discomfort, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech and swelling. These symptoms will develop within seconds of minutes of the reaction. If someone is in this condition, it is important to call 911 immediately, as this can be fatal.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
In the beginning, anaphylaxis may just look like regular allergy symptoms, starting out with a runny nose or small rash. More serious signs will appear within thirty minutes. Some symptoms to watch out for include hives, low blood pressure, weak and rapid pulse, wheezing, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting.
Causes of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis occurs when your immune system creates antibodies against a substance that it believes to be dangerous. The most common cause of anaphylaxis in children is a food allergy. In adults, it is more common to have a reaction to medications, insects, or latex. There are some cases where exercising can cause anaphylactic symptoms, especially when consuming certain foods beforehand.
Risk Factors of Anaphylaxis
If you have had an anaphylactic reaction before, then you are at a higher risk to have another anaphylactic reaction. You may also be at an increased risk if you have a family history of asthma or anaphylaxis. Certain other conditions may also be linked to anaphylaxis, such as heart disease.
Complications of Anaphylaxis
One in every five people will have a second reaction within 12 hours of the first reaction. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, and if you experience symptoms, it is critical to get help immediately.
Prevention of Anaphylaxis
The best step towards prevention is to avoid your trigger that causes the reaction. If you are not sure of what your triggers are, then you should speak with your allergist about going through allergy testing. When you know exactly what your triggers are, you can properly avoid them. If your allergy symptoms cause you to be unconscious or not able speak, then a medical bracelet is a good option to warn others of your allergies. Keep your emergency kit and medications available to you at all times, in case of emergency. You should speak with your allergist about an allergy action plan. If you are allergic to certain medications, then let your physicians and even dentists know before treatment. If you are allergic to insects, be very cautious when working outdoors. If you have a food allergy, check labels and speak to your server when dining out about how food is prepared.
Diagnosis of Anaphylaxis
To begin diagnosing the allergy, your allergist will ask you a series of questions about your reactions and what you believe you reacted to. In order to properly confirm this diagnosis, you may be given a blood test after the reaction to test the amount of enzymes that are present. If you are not sure what the trigger is, your allergist may order a skin test or blood test to help narrow down the allergen. The symptoms seen in anaphylaxis are also seen in other conditions, so your allergist will also need to rule those out.
Treatment of Anaphylaxis
A dose of epinephrine can help symptoms within minutes, and if they do not, then a second dose can be administered. These shots are available by prescription only. They come pre-filled and are ready-to-use. Oxygen may also be given to help you breathe through the attack. Antihistamines and cortisone will help to reduce inflammation in the air passages, which will help breathing. A beta-agonist may also be administered to relieve breathing symptoms.
In case of emergency, call 911 immediately. Administer a dose of epinephrine into the thigh. Lay the person down with their legs elevated. If the person’s pulse and breathing is not normal, it is time to begin CPR or other necessary measures.
If there is no way to avoid triggers, then your allergist may recommend beginning immunotherapy. Immunotherapy will reduce the response and possibly prevent a major reaction. Immunotherapy exposes you to doses of the allergen, in an effort to build up your body’s tolerance to the allergen.
Create an allergy action plan with your allergist. This will create a step by step plan of what to do in an emergency. It is best to create this plan before a reaction occurs and you are not able to make decisions. Once this plan is created, share it with anyone you may be around when an attack occurs. This could include anyone from your spouse, family, coworkers, etc. If you are creating the plan for your child, then you will want to give it to their teachers, babysitters, or anyone that will be responsible for them.
Summary of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that requires immediate response. Symptoms include change in pulse, wheezing, nausea, trouble breathing, etc. When these symptoms occur, it is mandatory to get treatment immediately. You may be at a higher risk for symptoms if you have asthma, allergies, or a family history of anaphylaxis. To diagnose an allergy, your allergist will ask questions about your symptoms and triggers. To confirm the diagnosis, the allergist may administer a skin or blood test. The best treatment is to avoid the allergen completely. If you are not sure of what the allergen is, ask your allergist to administer a skin test, so you can see what triggers a reaction. Treatments will begin with calling 911. A dose of epinephrine will be given next. Once help has arrived, they will begin by administering oxygen and/or medications. For the best treatment, create an allergy action plan with your allergist before a reaction happens. This is a guideline of what to do in case of emergency. Give these to everyone that is around you so they know what to do if you are unconscious. If you have a child with an allergy, distribute these action plans to everyone who takes care of the child.