Everything you need to know about anaphylaxis


Everything you need to know about anaphylaxis

“Anaphylaxis” – or “anaphylactic shock” – is a term you might have heard when people talk about allergies. You may have even seen a story about it in the news. But what exactly is it?

Approximately 1 in 1,000 people have or will experience anaphylaxis. It’s a severe allergic reaction to something your body doesn’t agree with. In medical terms, a “shock” is when your blood pressure drops so low that your body finds it hard to get oxygen to key organs. If not treated quickly, it can be fatal. Let’s look at what can cause it, what symptoms to look out for, and how doctors often treat it.

Types of anaphylaxis

Plenty of substances can cause an anaphylactic shock, but they can broadly be put into three categories:

  • Food-induced anaphylaxis – This might be the one you hear of most. In children, peanuts, wheat, and cow’s milk are some of the most common causes. In adults, it’s slightly different, with seafood being more of a contributor. For some people, just being close to the food can cause a reaction.
  • Drug-induced anaphylaxis – This is actually the most common cause of anaphylaxis. Antibiotics are a huge factor in this type of anaphylaxis.
  • Insect-induced anaphylaxis – This is caused by the venom from an insect, such as a bee or wasp.

There can be other causes, such as general anaesthetic, latex, and even vaccines (in very rare cases).

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

Anaphylactic shock can go bad quickly. It’s why immediate action is needed. Some of the telltale symptoms to look out for include:

  • Breathing difficulties (shallow breathing particularly)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness

Do note that this is far from exhaustive, but are some immediate signs you could notice. In severe, potentially fatal cases, you’ll see extreme breathing problems and complete loss of consciousness. And it’ll happen fast – a couple of minutes is all it can take.

Treatment for anaphylaxis

The most common way you’ll see people treat it is with epinephrine – or more commonly known as an “EpiPen”. Many people who know they are at risk of anaphylaxis will carry one with them.

Even if it’s administered, it’s still vital that you call the emergency services. It needs proper medical oversight and isn’t something you can just treat at home. This is best left to the professionals.

If you want to try to avoid an anaphylactic shock, make sure the person with the allergy stays away from any triggers. In the case you aren’t sure what those are, talk to an allergy specialist about a test. The more you know about the condition, the better.

Whatever you do – and whether it’s you at risk, a family member, or a friend – always stay safe. Talk to your doctor about their recommendations for managing your allergy, and always contact them if you have any concerns.

Worried about your allergies? Talk to our allergy experts today to discuss your needs, how to stay safe, and put your mind at ease. You can register as a new patient here or call us on 02031 433 449.

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