July 25, 2018

6 Common Misconceptions about Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe form of an allergic reaction that causes life-threatening symptoms. Such a reaction requires an immediate emergency treatment, which involves an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and a follow-up medical care. People who are at risk of developing anaphylaxis should always have an epinephrine auto-injector on hand, in case of an emergency. Despite the severity of this condition, there are still various misconceptions about anaphylaxis. Below, we will look at the most common ones.


#1: You can always recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis.


While many people think that it’s not difficult to determine if someone is having an anaphylactic reaction, there are actually many symptoms potentially indicating anaphylaxis.

Breathing difficulty is a common sign of anaphylaxis, but it’s not the only one. This reaction can also cause itchy skin or hives, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and other digestive problems, difficulty swallowing, dizziness or even fainting. Some people may simply experience extremely abnormal sensations in the body.

Anaphylaxis is a systemic reaction, which means it affects multiple organs. If you or someone around you is having any combination of the symptoms mentioned above, you should seek for medical help immediately.

In addition, the symptoms of anaphylaxis are not necessarily severe from the beginning. However, even mild symptoms can progress extremely rapidly, which is why you should act quickly.

#2: Anaphylaxis occur soon after the exposure to an allergen.


Normally, it does appear within 5 to 30 minutes after the exposure to an allergy trigger. However, in some cases, it may take up to several hours until the symptoms develop.

People with allergies to an insect sting, foods (e.g. peanuts or shellfish), latex or a medication are at a higher risk for developing anaphylaxis.

Even if the injection of epinephrine seems to reduce all the symptoms, it is important that you get a follow-up medical care at the hospital. This is because the symptoms can return later.

#3: If your previous allergic reactions didn’t involve anaphylaxis, you are not at risk.


Anaphylaxis can develop in any person with allergies, asthma, eczema, or a family history of severe allergies. Even if the previous reactions were mild, you may still be at risk.

Thus, even if your allergy has never caused you to experience anaphylaxis, the next allergic reaction may lead to life-threatening consequences.

It is important that people with allergies work with allergy specialists to keep the condition under control. The doctor will make proper a diagnosis and determine whether you are at risk for anaphylaxis.

#4: Over-the-counter medications can treat anaphylaxis.


The treatment of anaphylaxis involves an immediate injection of epinephrine (adrenaline), This hormone helps to raise heartbeat rate and open the airways. If you are prescribed to carry an auto-injector, you should always have on hand. In case of an emergency, you should press the device against the upper thigh and inject the medication into the muscle.

Epinephrine is not harmful for your health. Even if you are not completely sure that your reaction is actually allergy-related, you should use the auto-injector, just in case. In some cases, this injection can be life-saving.

You can only obtain an epinephrine auto-injector by prescription. If you have a history of anaphylaxis or if you are at a higher risk for this reaction, you should carry to auto-injectors with you. If you are having anaphylaxis and don’t have one on hand, you should call 911 immediately.

Some people think that it’s safer to try antihistamines or steroids first and then, if they don’t help, use epinephrine. According to experts, this is an absolutely wrong thing to do. If left untreated properly and in time, the symptoms of anaphylaxis can get life-threatening.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a follow-up medical care at the hospital is a must, even when you use the auto-injector.

#5: Injecting epinephrine can be difficult.


In fact, using an epinephrine auto-injector is quite easy and, what is more important, safe. And there are little potential side effects, too.

Some people are afraid of using needles which is why the find it hard to inject the medication. It’s important to understand, however, that this is literally a question of life and death.

Consult with your allergist about the correct way to use the auto-injector. If your doctor prescribes you one, make sure to practice using the device first.

#6: The trigger of anaphylaxis is easy to identify.


Usually, depending on the surrounding environment, the cause of a severe allergic reaction is quite easy to identify.

Yet, the trigger is not always obvious, especially, when the symptoms do not occur immediately. It’s also possible to be exposed to new foods, medicines or materials at the same time.

When it impossible to identify the cause of anaphylaxis, experts talk about “idiopathic” anaphylaxis.

However, even if the trigger is determined, experts recommend that you talk to your doctor to be completely sure. Self-diagnosing is never a good idea. To treat your symptoms effectively and avoid the right triggers, you should consult a specialist.

You may want to arrange a visit to your allergist after experiencing anaphylaxis. This will help to understand your risks better and learn how to act in case of an emergency. Your doctor will also tell you how to keep your allergy under control and avoid the triggers.

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