Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction in which the immune system reacts to specific immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) towards a substance that is relatively harmless. The body is sensitized to this substance but once an individual is exposed again, the IgE antibodies perceive this substance and activate the immune cells to release substantial amounts of inflammatory substances including histamine.
These substances causes the symptoms of anaphylaxis that includes hives, swelling, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, difficulty swallowing, wheezing and loss of consciousness.
In severe cases, an individual will go into a state of anaphylactic shock. The blood pressure drops drastically and there is swelling in the bronchial tissues. This triggers the symptoms of choking and loss of consciousness. If anaphylactic shock is left untreated, it can be deadly.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis typically starts with intense itchiness of the face or eyes and can progress to serious symptoms within minutes including the following:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Swelling that makes it hard to breathe and swallow
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Hives and angioedema
Once the individual has symptoms, it is vital to seek immediate medical care since the condition can abruptly trigger increased heart rate, drop in the blood pressure, sudden weakness, loss of consciousness and even death.
Typical causes of anaphylaxis
Food allergy have been the recognized cause of anaphylaxis particularly tree nuts, peanuts, cow’s milk, shellfish, soy, wheat and egg. Sensitivity to venom is also recognized as one of the causes of anaphylaxis.
This severe reaction is diagnosed based on the symptoms. Individuals who have a history of allergic reactions face a higher risk for developing a severe reaction in the future.
A skin test and RAST blood test can be carried out to confirm the substances that triggered the severe allergic reactions. In case anaphylaxis is suspected, testing must be carried out under the guidance of a doctor.
The effective treatment for acute anaphylaxis involves the administration of epinephrine. This works rapidly to reverse the symptoms using an injectable device with the dose administered on the thigh.
If an individual starts to show symptoms of a severe reaction, call for emergency assistance. In some cases, CPR or other lifesaving measures might be needed. Once the breathing is compromised, insertion of a tube via the nose or mouth into the airway is required or even emergency surgery that involves placement of a tube directly into the trachea.
Aside from epinephrine, the treatment for shock involves intravenous fluids and medications that are responsible for supporting the functions of the heart and circulatory system. Once the individual in shock has been stabilized, medications such as antihistamines and corticosteroids can be given to reduce the symptoms.
How to live with allergies
If an individual is highly sensitive or allergic to bee stings or any substance that triggers anaphylaxis, it is vital to be prepared. Always bring along an injectable epinephrine at all times.
In addition, if the individual has drug allergies, the doctor should be informed before undergoing any form of treatment including dental care. It is also vital to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that identifies the allergy of the individual since it is vital during emergencies.