What Is Anaphylaxis?

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Anaphylaxis is one of the most severe allergic reactions that you can have. Although they’re somewhat rare, anaphylactic reactions should be taken extremely seriously and treated immediately. Emergency medical attention will be required to get the symptoms under control. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated, the symptoms can be fatal.

It’s important to note that having an anaphylactic reaction once increases your risk to have more. Your risk also increases if you have a family history of anaphylaxis or asthma. If you know you’re prone to anaphylactic reactions, you should carry an epinephrine shot with you for emergency situations.

If you aren’t aware of your allergens, it’s good to get an allergy test to find out what you’re allergic to. Get an at-home allergy test from Wyndly, or read on to learn more about anaphylaxis.

A Brief Overview

Anaphylaxis is a very rare reaction. It’s also something that most people recover from, but it’s important that you get treatment immediately. When you have an anaphylactic reaction, it can be fatal if not properly treated.

It’s important to take proper precautions, know the symptoms, and know what you need to do if you or someone you know experiences a reaction like this. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that result from anaphylaxis.

What Are the Symptoms?

Typically, an anaphylactic reaction will be sudden, and the progression of symptoms will be rapid.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis will typically include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fast or shallow breathing
  • Sudden feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, or faintness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Wheezing
  • Confusion
  • Sudden anxiety
  • A loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Swollen lips, tongue, or throat
  • Itchy lips, tongue, or throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hives or skin rash
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • A sense of doom

These are the serious symptoms of anaphylaxis and are an indication that the reaction is worsening.

Often, these symptoms will be preceded by typical allergy symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Aggravated asthma symptoms

The more severe symptoms can appear within 30 minutes. There is also the chance of a biphasic anaphylactic reaction, which means you have a second reaction within 12 hours of the first.

Common Triggers

As with other allergic reactions, anaphylaxis occurs when your body perceives a normally harmless substance as a threat. It will attack the threat with antibodies the same way it would attack an infection. This can cause anaphylactic symptoms to occur. Anaphylaxis can also develop over time, so you may not necessarily have a reaction the first time you come in contact with a potential trigger.

Common triggers will often change with age. Children are more likely to have an anaphylactic reaction to food, whereas adults are more likely to have a reaction to medications. Of course, a reaction can happen at any age to either type of substance.

Here are some of the most common triggers for children:

  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Soy

Adults also have some common food triggers, including:

  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts

It’s possible to be so sensitive to these food triggers that even smelling them can cause you to have an allergic reaction. There are also preservatives in food that can bring on a reaction.

Common medication triggers include:

In very rare cases, people may experience an anaphylactic reaction to the following substances:

  • Seasonal pollen allergies from grass, weeds, and trees
  • Bug stings or bites, especially from bees and wasps
  • Latex

Anaphylactic reactions can sometimes occur if someone is exposed to multiple allergens in combination, for instance, if you are exposed to birch pollen and then eat food that is cross-reactive with birch, like apples or hazelnuts. If you have tree, weed, or grass allergies, it’s good to be aware of the foods that are cross-reactive with your allergen.

Typically, an anaphylactic reaction will show symptoms within minutes, but it can also take more than an hour to appear. It’s essential to be aware of your allergen triggers if you’re prone to anaphylaxis, so you can avoid having a reaction. With that being said, there are cases where people never find the trigger for their anaphylaxis. This is known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.

Whether you know the cause of your anaphylaxis or not, it’s a good idea to carry epinephrine injectors, inform close friends and family, and wear medical alert jewelry. Doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals should also be made aware of any allergies you have.

Can It Be Caused by Allergies?

For the most part, anaphylaxis is brought on by your immune system overreacting to something you’re allergic to. But this isn’t necessarily always the case. You can still have an anaphylactic reaction to a trigger that you’re not allergic to.

Again, anaphylaxis is a rare reaction. Typically, allergies aren’t serious. They may cause you discomfort and affect daily life, but they’re very manageable and even treatable in many cases.

How Can I Prevent It?

If you have experienced an episode of anaphylaxis, it’s essential to take measures to prevent exposure to your trigger. Also, if you have a family history of anaphylaxis or if you have asthma, it may be worthwhile to consider taking these preventative measures.

  • Identify your triggers: The most important thing you can do is identify your anaphylaxis triggers. This way you can avoid these substances and inform others of your allergies. The best way to do this is with an allergy test, which can potentially identify triggers you knew about and ones you didn’t.
  • Avoid your triggers: Once you’ve identified your triggers, always do your best to avoid them. If you have food allergies, be sure to check ahead with restaurants or ask the wait staff about ingredients, be careful when food shopping, and inform anyone you’re eating with about your allergies. If you have medication allergies, always let doctors, dentists, and other professionals know. If you have latex allergies, make sure to inform any professional you interact with who may use latex gloves or other latex products.
  • Carry the right equipment: Always carry epinephrine injectors with you in case of an allergic reaction. Remember that these can expire, so keep an eye on the date or set a reminder to replace them. Also, wearing medical jewelry can inform others of your condition if you’re unable to inject yourself. Finally, make sure to let friends and family know, so they know how to act when you’re experiencing a reaction and they know to avoid exposing you to triggers.

Getting Treatment

Remember, anaphylaxis is a very serious medical emergency. You should seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms. If that happens, here are some simple steps you can take.

  • Use an epinephrine auto-injector if one is available. Be sure you know how to use it or follow instructions carefully to use it properly.
  • Call 911 and report a medical emergency. Tell them that the reaction may be due to anaphylaxis and let them know if an epinephrine injection has been administered. Emergency medical attention should be sought even if symptoms are subsiding since another reaction could happen.
  • Remove nearby triggers. If food is the culprit, ensure the food is not nearby anymore. If an insect sting is the cause, remove the stinger. The person should be moved away from the allergen(s) if possible.
  • Elevate the legs. If the person is able, have them lie down and raise their legs. If breathing difficulties are happening, have them sit up to breathe.
  • Administer a second injection. If the first injection hasn’t caused symptoms to subside after five minutes, use another injection if one is available.

You may not always be able to perform these tasks on your own if you’re having a reaction. If someone is nearby to help, you may be able to walk them through it. The most important thing is getting the first injection and calling emergency services. Unlike other allergy reactions, antihistamines or other over-the-counter allergy medications should not be used to treat anaphylaxis. Epinephrine is the only treatment that should be administered, and you will need a prescription to get it.

Get Personalized Care With Wyndly

Please be aware that Wyndly does not offer emergency medical services for anaphylaxis. If you’re having an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 right away.

However, if you’re looking for relief from allergy symptoms or a convenient way to get allergy testing, Wyndly can help. We offer easy and painless at-home allergy tests that can be delivered straight to your door. Wyndly also offers personalized allergy treatment plans designed to help you find long-term relief from your allergies. Get started today by taking our easy 2-minute online assessment!

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