Anaphylaxis is a serious form of allergy triggered by medications, insect stings and foods. Additionally, there are other, less common triggers of the condition. However, the issue features a sudden onset and life-threatening development.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
The signs of the condition can vary greatly, depending on a person and peculiarities of his/her health state. The exact reason of individual symptoms is not known. However, among the two top common anaphylaxis symptoms are angioedema and urticaria or hives. These signs appear in more than 90% of anaphylactic reactions. Then, respiratory symptoms occur in over 70% of patients. Shortness of breath, wheezing and similar respiratory disorders are ultimately common in people with chronic lung disorders including COPD and asthma. Other signs of anaphylaxis are lightheadedness, decreased blood pressure, dizziness or even passing out.
Hives are exclusively popular, with over 20% of people being affected by it during their lifetime. They are raised itchy bumps, which can be skin- or red-colored. Pressing down on the hive, you will notice how it blanches and turns white. Relieving pressure allows them to return to their usual color.
Similar to hives, angioedema involves swelling. However, in angioedema, swelling is under the skin surface, so it can influence other organs and soft tissues, including trachea and wind pipe.
Generally, the condition can affect diverse body parts and can presuppose specific symptoms to the impacted organ:
• Nervous system – anxiety, confusion, feeling doom;
• Eyes – advanced tears, irritation, swelling of the surrounding skin, redness, itching;
• Circulatory and cardiac symptoms – decreased blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, feeling like passing out;
• Skin – itching, angioedema, hives, flushing;
• Lung – wheezing, chest tightness, breathing complications;
• Nose – sneezing, congestion, runny nose;
• Throat – hoarseness, choking or throat swelling;
• Oral – strange taste, tongue swelling.
Reasons of Anaphylaxis Occurrence
Anaphylaxis triggers are frequently obvious, especially when the symptoms appear right after the contact or ingestion with specific substance. Nevertheless, they can also be difficult to identify. The so-called traditional or common anaphylaxis triggers include:
• Exercise – in rare condition anaphylaxis appears after initiating the workout or other physical activities. It is more peculiar of vigorous forms of activities, mainly dancing, running or bicycling. However, the condition has been claimed to develop even with less vigorous sports, such as yard work performance, walking, etc.;
• Foods – the most common foods triggering the signs of anaphylaxis include tree nuts, peanuts, soy, fish, crustaceans, wheat and others. However, any food can serve the reason of condition development;
• Insect bites and stings – venom bites and stings from insects, such as yellow jackets, hornets, bees, fire ants, scorpions, wasps and others can lead to anaphylaxis;
• Medications – antibiotics (e.g. cephalosporins and penicillins), common OTC pain drugs, analgesics (e.g. Ibuprofen and Aspirin), as well as a range of other pharmaceuticals can activate the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Certain people can develop the condition after immunizations and medications, like anesthetics;
• Latex – peculiarly rubber found in balloons, support equipment, gloves, condoms and medical equipment can lead to condition occurrence.
Risk Factors for Anaphylaxis Development
Definitely, not all the people are at the same risk of anaphylaxis development. Once you have previously had certain reactions to some substances, you are more likely to experience anaphylaxis in the future.
Nevertheless, your past response to some substance cannot serve the reason for future response. If you have got mild reactions in the past, you can either not get the reaction in the future, or get a severe one instead. People with chronic lung diseases are at a higher risk of devastating symptoms development during anaphylactic reaction.
How Doctor Can Diagnose the Condition
Anaphylaxis is a medical diagnosis, which is based mainly on symptoms and feelings that occur after exposure to specific triggers, such as medications, insect bites or foods.
After you have reported all the symptoms of anaphylaxis, your doctor may schedule further testing or evaluation. These may include different procedures, such as skin testing and similar ones.
Besides, there is a range of disorders, which can mimic anaphylaxis. For instance, severe panic attack, asthma attack, heart attack and related conditions can activate the same symptoms, as during anaphylactic reaction. Your healthcare provider may want to exclude specific conditions, depending on your physical exam, medical history and clinical course.
How Can Anaphylaxis Be Treated?
The condition should be diagnosed and treated as medical emergency due to its possible life-threatening symptoms. Once you have an epinephrine injector, you may need to use it the moment you have noticed the first symptoms.
Epinephrine is the single effective anaphylaxis treatment. Medications, such as antihistamines, can only relieve symptoms, including itching and hives, while asthma inhalers will eliminate respiratory signs.
Then, another inevitable step in anaphylaxis treatment is removing allergens. It is a well-known fact that allergic reactions will last as long as the allergen interferes with the body. For the insect sting you need to remove the stinger the first possible moment. Once the allergen is topical, you need to wash your skin thoroughly. In case the drug or food has been ingested, you just need to stop using it.
After you have got epinephrine injection, you need to go to the emergency room for evaluation. Doctors and nurses will monitor your condition and provide further treatment.
If you experience anaphylactic episode, you need to see your allergist, since they specialize in evaluating and treatment of similar conditions. An allergist will likely tell you to perform blood tests and skin testing to diagnose whether you have true allergy and select a proper treatment course.
Depending on test results and previous anaphylaxis episodes, an allergist may advise you take either corticosteroids or antihistamines as a key treatment for future attacks. Immunotherapy and other measures can also be recommended in order to prevent further episodes.
How to Avoid Anaphylaxis Triggers?
Striving to prevent anaphylaxis, you need to avoid its triggers, when they are identified. Nevertheless, some triggers, such as foods can be quite difficult to avoid.
• Medications – you need to understand that one and the same active ingredient can be produced under various names and by diverse manufacturers. Thus, it is inevitable to learn a list of available medications, similar to the one, which has caused an anaphylactic reaction;
• Food – you need to eliminate products from your diet, which trigger anaphylaxis. Learn to read food labels and become hyper vigilant about consulting about makeup and cooking of foods you eat not at home;
• Insect stings and bites – wear protective clothes to prevent anaphylaxis caused by insect bites. This presupposes long-sleeved clothing, closed shoes, hats. Do not drink from open containers when outdoors, etc.