What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also called anaphylactic reaction or anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction. It usually starts very quickly and if left unchecked can lead to very severe and even fatal symptoms. It can directly affect many organs, such as the skin, nose, mouth, throat, chest, heart, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system.

Prognosis of anaphylaxis

As mentioned above, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if symptoms are not treated in time. With proper treatment, the symptoms can be greatly improved, but it is of utmost importance to act at the moment when anaphylactic shock occurs.

Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if symptoms are not treated in time.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

Symptoms occur severely and rapidly throughout the body. The most common are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest discomfort or tightness
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, or high-pitched breath sounds
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Hives, itching, redness of the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling of face, eyes and tongue
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of consciousness

Medical tests for anaphylaxis

The allergist will ask the person a questionnaire to study the possible cause of the anaphylaxis. Once the symptoms have subsided and the patient is feeling better, treatment and allergy testing will be performed to study the allergen that caused the reaction or, if it is not so obvious, general allergy testing will be performed to look for the possible cause.

What are the causes of anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis occurs in response to any allergen. The most common causes are food allergies, drug allergies and insect stings or bites. Anaphylaxis can occur after exposure to an allergen, the tissues begin to expel histamine, which causes airway tightness and triggers other symptoms. There are drugs that can cause a similar response when a person is first exposed to them. The immune system reaction to these drugs is usually not the same as when you have anaphylaxis, although the symptoms and complications are similar in both reactions.

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Can it be prevented?

To avoid an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, the following prevention tips are recommended:

  • Avoid factors that have caused an allergic reaction in the past.
  • Be sure of the ingredients of the food you eat out or buy.
  • Wear a medical identification tag.
  • Carry emergency medications if you have a history of allergic reactions.

Treatments for anaphylaxis

If a person is having anaphylaxis, first check the airway, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Other advice to follow is:

  • Call emergency services.
  • Reassure the person
  • If it is due to a bee sting, scrape the stinger from the skin with your fingernails or a credit card, but not with tweezers.
  • Help the person take emergency medication (if available).
  • Lay the person flat, elevating the feet at least 12 inches, and cover the person with a blanket (do not do this position if a head, back, neck, or leg injury is suspected).
  • Do not put a pillow under the head or give him/her anything by mouth if he/she is having trouble breathing.

Specialists may place a tube through the nose or mouth or perform emergency surgery to place a tube in the windpipe to open the airway. Medications are also given to reduce symptoms.

What specialist treats it?

The specialist who treats this condition is the allergist.