Definition of Anaphylaxis:
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that must be treated immediately, as it manifests progressively and can quickly become lethal as it blocks the airways and closes the glottis.
If you have an anaphylactic reaction, you will need an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection as soon as possible. At the same time, someone must call 911 so that you can receive emergency medical help. If left untreated, it can be deadly.
Epinephrine can reverse symptoms in a matter of minutes. If this does not happen, you may need a second injection within half an hour. It would help if you did not take antihistamines for an anaphylactic reaction. It is also good to wear a medical alert bracelet or a pendant or carry a card with information about your allergy.
If you have had an anaphylactic reaction before, you have a greater risk of having another. You have a higher risk if you have a history of anaphylaxis or have asthma.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis
The first signs of anaphylaxis may resemble typical allergy symptoms: runny nose or rash. But within about 30 minutes, more severe signs appear.
Generally, there are more than one of these:
- Cough; wheezing and pain, itching or tightness in the chest
- Fainting, dizziness, confusion, or weakness
- Urticaria; rash and itching, swelling or red skin
- Congestion or stuffy nose and sneezing
- Shortness of breath or shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat
- Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
- Swelling or itching in the throat, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, tightness in the throat
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
- Weak pulse, pallor
Some people also remember feeling the “sense of fatality” before the attack.
Up to 1 in 5 people can have a second anaphylactic reaction within the first 12 hours of having one. This is called biphasic anaphylaxis.
Treatment of anaphylaxis
Epinephrine is the most effective treatment for anaphylaxis, and the injection should be given immediately (usually in the mucus). If you have had an anaphylaxis reaction before, you should take at least two doses of epinephrine with you.
Epinephrine expires after about a year, so make sure your prescription is updated. If you have an anaphylactic reaction and the dose has passed, inject yourself anyway.
When medical personnel arrives, they can administer more epinephrine promptly. If you cannot breathe, you can put a tube in your mouth or nose to help you. If this does not work, they could do a tracheotomy surgery that places the line directly in the trachea.
Whether in the ambulance or the hospital, you may need fluids and medications to help you breathe. You will probably have to stay in the emergency room for several hours to ensure you do not have a second reaction.
After the initial emergency is over, consult an allergy specialist, especially if you do not know what caused the reaction.
Causes of anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis occurs when you have an antibody, something that usually fights any infection that may be present in your body, which overreacts to something harmless like food.
The first time you contact the food, that may detonate it, it may not happen, but it may develop over time.
In children, the most common cause is food. For adults, the leading cause is medication.
The typical detonators among foods in children are:
- The ordinary detonators present in adult foods are:
- Tree nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, and almonds)
- Some people are so sensitive that even the smell of food can cause a reaction. Some are also allergic to certain preservatives in food.
The ordinary detonators present in medicines are:
- Penicillin (more injections followed instead of a pill)
- Muscle relaxants such as those used for anesthesia
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Drugs against seizures
Other things can also trigger anaphylaxis. But they are not so common, for example:
- Pollen, such as ambrosia, grass, and pollen from trees
- Stings of bees, wasps, and ants.
- Latex is found in hospital gloves, balloons, and rubber bands.
- Some people may have an anaphylactic reaction if they breathe latex.
- Some may react to a combination of things:
- If they breathe the pollen of the birch and eat the apple, raw potatoes, carrots, celery, or hazelnut
- If they breathe sagebrush pollen and eat celery, apples, peanuts, or kiwi
- If they breathe ambrosia pollen and eat melons or bananas
- If you touch the latex and eat papaya, chestnuts, or kiwi.
- It can be triggered by 2 to 4 hours of exercise after eating certain foods or by the activity itself in rare cases.
Anaphylactic reactions usually begin minutes after contact with what detonates it but may also occur an hour or more later.
Some people never realize what caused their reactions.
Factors that influence the severity of this disease
The severity of allergic reactions to food can vary based on the amount of food eaten, whether the food is cooked, raw, or processed, and the co-ingestion of other foods.