Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening immune response that occurs with exposure to an allergen. While an anaphylactic reaction is a serious medical concern, taking steps to avoid allergens and seeking immediate treatment if anaphylaxis does occur can reduce your risk for dangerous complications.
What are the Signs of Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylaxis occurs within minutes of exposure to an allergen and is characterized by a weak and/or rapid pulse, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, and a skin rash or hives. If untreated, this can progress to cause breathing or even the heartbeat to stop.
Why Does Anaphylaxis Occur?
The characteristic symptoms of anaphylaxis are caused by a narrowing of the airways and a sudden drop in blood pressure. These physical reactions happen when the immune system releases neurotransmitters in response to allergic exposure. This is intended to protect the body from foreign substances, but for some people, the reaction occurs with exposure to substances that are not harmful- an effect known as allergies. This immune overreaction can be caused by any allergen, but most commonly occurs with exposure to latex, insect venom (such as with a bee sting), and certain foods or medications.
What Can I Do to Prevent Anaphylaxis?
An individual who has a serious allergy should be prepared for a potential reaction at all times by carrying an EpiPen. This epinephrine autoinjector reverses the immune reaction to restore normal blood pressure and breathing. Know how and when to use the EpiPen so that you can inject yourself or have someone else inject you if you are exposed to an allergen and go into anaphylactic shock. Make sure that the EpiPen is not expired and have an extra one on hand at all times.
Who Experiences Anaphylaxis?
While anyone can develop serious allergies, they are more common among people who have asthma, mastocytosis, or heart disease. In addition, having a mild anaphylactic reaction increases your risk for more serious anaphylaxis in the future.
If you’ve experienced an anaphylactic shock and are unsure what triggered this reaction, set up a time to visit Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic to learn more about allergy testing and your treatment options. Understanding your allergens allows you to avoid exposure whenever possible. Contact us today to book an appointment at our office in California, Oregon or Washington.