Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening, allergic reaction. Symptoms usually involve more than one part of the body – such as the skin or mouth, the lungs, the heart and the gut.

  • Skin rashes, itching or hives
  • Lips, tongue or throat swelling
  • Breathing issues – shortness of breath, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Stomach pain, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pale or red color to the face and body
  • Hoarse voice
  • Feeling of impending doom

Anaphylaxis must be treated immediately to provide to prevent serious life-threatening complications. Epinephrine is the most important treatment available. This involves prompt injection of epinephrine and a trip to the hospital emergency room. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately – even if you start to feel better – because symptoms can reoccur. Other treatments may be needed in addition to the epinephrine.

Anaphylaxis is caused by the body’s immune system as a response to an allergen – medicines, foods, insect stings and latex cause the most severe allergic reactions. Those who have allergies or asthma and a family history of anaphylaxis have a higher risk of a severe reaction. For anyone who has experienced anaphylactic shock, they have an increased risk of having another anaphylactic shock reaction.

To diagnose a risk of anaphylaxis or to determine whether previous symptoms were anaphylaxis related, an allergist will conduct a health investigation of all potential causes. By giving a thorough health history, the allergist will ask for specific details for any past allergic reactions. An accurate diagnosis by allergy testing is imperative to know your allergens.

Treatment and Management

The best way to manage an anaphylactic shock episode is to avoid allergens that trigger allergic reactions and always be prepared for an emergency by carrying epinephrine autoinjectors (adrenaline). Talk to your healthcare provider on how to use the epinephrine autoinjector. The single dose is injected into the thigh during an anaphylactic emergency.

Complete an Anaphylaxis Action Plan to keep at work, school, camp, or other places. Have your allergist help you create the plan. Discuss any medications you are allergic to and what symptoms you had when you took them. Some common medicines like beta-blockers can worsen anaphylaxis.

Medicines are the leading cause of anaphylaxis in adults such as penicillin and other antibiotics, aspirin and aspirin-related products, and insulin. Food is the leading cause of anaphylaxis in children. The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. In children, most food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, and wheat. In adults, the most common food allergies are shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts.

  • Latex allergies – Natural rubber latex may cause a mild skin irritation or can even trigger a severe allergic reaction. Direct contact with latex items can cause a reaction. Inhaling small latex particles can also trigger latex allergy.
  • Physical activity – exercise-induced anaphylaxis is a rare allergic reaction that occurs after vigorous physical activity. Temperature, seasonal changes, drugs, alcohol or eating certain foods may be co-factors.

Preventing Anaphylaxis

Avoid allergens – if you have a drug allergy, be familiar with generic names and brand names of medicines that could cause a severe allergic reaction. Be aware of ingredients in a combination product and be watchful for any medicines that might cause a cross-reaction. Read drug information labels carefully.

For those with a food allergy, check ingredients on food labels. Wash hands and use clean surfaces and utensils for food preparation. Be proactive when dining out asking ahead of time how food is prepared to avoid cross-contamination.

If you react to insect stings or exercise, visit your allergist on how best to avoid these reactions.

Carry the epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times. This can be life-saving if you experience anaphylaxis. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction, use your epinephrine auto-injector, and call 911 immediately to be taken to the nearest emergency department for evaluation, monitoring, and any further treatment by healthcare professionals.

Contact Our Office

If you experience severe symptoms, call 911. For information or to schedule a visit with our team, contact us online or call (405) 235-0040 to find out if you have allergies, what kind they are, how we can help treat them so you can live a better quality of life.

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