What is Anaphylaxis


Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic shock reaction where a person may faint, the skin becomes blue, and swelling appears in the throat and eyes. You may have heard this condition referred to as anaphylaxis shock. Often the cause of the condition is an allergic reaction to bee, yellow jacket, hornet or wasp stings, or to a specific food or combination of foods.
Anaphylaxis is a very serious allergic reaction that can occur suddenly, or take up to two hours after contact with the allergy-causing substance or toxin. This reactive condition can be along a range in terms of its severity and it may be mild to potentially fatal.

Anaphylaxis is not a common occurrence, it is estimated that the annual incidence of this severe reaction is only about 30 people in every 100,000. There is an increased risk of anaphylaxis for individuals who have asthma, hay fever or eczema. the most common causes are allergic reactions to food (particularly peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish), medication, insect stings and bites, and latex.

An anaphylactic reaction may start with a tingling sensations, itching of the skin, or a metallic taste in the mouth. It could also include a warm sensation, hives, asthma symptoms, swelling in the mouth and throat, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, a sudden drop in blood pressure and, in some cases, unconsciousness. The symptoms may appear suddenly, immediately after exposure, or take several hours.

In an anaphylactic reaction, treatment must be immediate as it is considered an emergency and a life-threatening situation. CPR may be needed to improve breathing until help arrives and Epinephrine should be given by injection. This medication serves to open the airways and raise the blood pressure by constricting blood vessels. Additionally, Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be given, but only after the immediate life-saving measures are taken.

Individuals who are prone to anaphylaxis or have severe allergies that could cause the condition are often advised to carry an Epi-pen or other similar allergy kit. A trip to the emergency room, or a call to 911 are still required, even if an individual does have these supplies on hand.

If you’d like to find out more information about anaphylaxis, the United States National Library of Science and the National Institutes of Health have an online resource with medical and health care information on various topics. The encyclopedia page dedicated to anaphylaxis can be found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000844.htm and features information about this condition including symptoms and treatment, as well as some good color images to help illustrate this condition, and related conditions.