Anaphylaxis is a rapidly evolving allergic reaction that can be deadly. It is often a product of a substance which is injected into the body or ingested by the body so that it gains access to the bloodstream easily. Anaphylaxis involves the areas of the lungs, nose, skin, throat and GI tract. Severe cases of anaphylaxis can happen within seconds of exposure to the allergen. Cases range from mild to very severe.
The severity of the anaphylactic reaction varies from person to person and not all people are allergic to the same thing. Once you have anaphylaxis to a toxin, you are always going to have anaphylaxis to the same product. The quicker the reaction, the more serious the reaction will be. If you have normal allergies, it does not mean you will have anaphylaxis to the same allergen. Anaphylaxis is non-IgE mediated, while regular allergies are IgE-mediated. If you have asthma, you are more likely to have anaphylaxis which is severe. You can have a diminishing reaction to an allergen over time but you cannot count on that and should stay away from the allergen.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include the onset of symptoms that can be immediate or delayed by up to an hour or more post exposure. Early symptoms include flushing of the skin, itching, and hives.
This progresses to having a feeling of impending doom, a rapid, irregular pulse and intense anxiety. The throat and tongue can swell so that the voice is hoarse. There can be difficulty in breathing and swallowing. You can get vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps, along with wheezing, sneezing and a runny nose. There can finally be a dilatation of the capillaries so that blood pressure drops and the person suffers from shock and loss of consciousness.
If you have anaphylaxis, you must be aware of your environment, especially as it relates to being around those things you can be allergic to. You need to be aware of anaphylaxis kits and carry one around with you at all times.
The best first aid measures are as follows: You should always call 911 immediately and use an Epi-pen as soon as you think you are having an allergic reaction. The shot is usually given in the outer thigh and can be given if the fabric you are wearing is light in bulk. Rub the injection site to get the epinephrine into your system as quickly as possible. Lie down and elevate your feet. Begin CPR on an affected person if they go into cardiac arrest.
Only give the epinephrine injection if you know the person has a history of anaphylaxis or if you are under the advice of a skilled healthcare practitioner. Inject a second dose of epinephrine if you have one within about 10-15 minutes. Even if this resolves the reaction, you need to go to the emergency room anyway. They may treat you with IV fluids, oxygen, certain medications for wheezing to help you breathe better, and possibly more epinephrine. You may receive steroids, which are longer acting in stopping the reaction. Antihistamines may also be used to stop the histamine response. While these other drugs are helpful, they do not take the place of epinephrine.
When you receive the epinephrine, you will feel very shaky and will have a pounding, rapid pulse. These are side effects of epinephrine and are not dangerous to you in and of itself.
There are two kinds of anaphylaxis worth mentioning. They include exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which comes on by means of intense and prolonged exercise. It is most common in long distance athletes. It can happen while exercising after eating specific foods that only trigger the reaction with exercise. Common foods are shellfish, celery and lettuce. Aspirin before exercise can trigger this type of anaphylaxis. You can pre-medicate with antihistamines but it does not always work.
When no specific cause of the allergic reaction can be found, it is called idiopathic anaphylaxis. Twenty five percent of all cases of anaphylaxis are considered idiopathic. There may be an unknown food allergy or asthmatic condition which triggers the allergic response.