What a negative reaction in the body.

What is anaphylaxis and why do people go into shock over it? Read this lesson to learn exactly what anaphylaxis is, what causes it to happen, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it! Knowing this could save someone’s life!

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to something. Peanuts and bee stings are two common allergens that can cause anaphylaxis to occur. When an allergic reaction of this magnitude takes place, it can be life-threatening if people don’t act quickly. When the body undergoes an allergic reaction to something, the immune system responds by releasing a flood of chemicals meant to fight the enemy.

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However, this flood of chemicals (that cause the actual symptoms of an allergic reaction) can cause the person to go into shock, which is where the term anaphylactic shock comes from. Shock itself means the blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels, and breathing is disrupted. Anaphylaxis can manifest itself by a rapid or weak pulse, a skin rash, nausea, or vomiting.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

We know that anaphylaxis is caused by an allergic reaction, but what symptoms appear? A specific allergen depends on the person, and may be a food, an insect bite or sting, a medication, or an item like latex. After exposure to the allergen, the immune system kicks into gear, and symptoms will generally appear within 30 minutes from the exposure. When symptoms do appear, they may appear as a skin rash or hives, itching, swelling in the throat or around the affected area, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, paleness or redness, chest tightness, or even losing consciousness.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis vary by person and may not all appear at the same time.

Treatment Options

What do you do if someone is suffering from anaphylaxis? If they are already aware of their allergy, they may be able to direct you to medication they have on hand for such a situation.

Epinephrine is usually needed to stop anaphylaxis from progressing. It works by stunting the body’s allergic response. Other treatment options may be the administration of oxygen, intravenous (IV) fluids, or an inhaler. It’s imperative to get the person (or yourself) to emergency medical care as soon as possible to ensure that the reaction has stopped.

In severe cases, CPR may be necessary (if they stop breathing and their heart stops beating).Unfortunately, there’s no way to become ‘un-allergic’ to something yet (though research is still being done on this), but you can be aware of your (and your loved one’s) triggers so that you are always prepared in case a reaction occurs. It may be necessary for you to carry portable medication with you (like an EpiPen) or take allergy medication daily.

Lesson Summary

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction the body has when it comes in contact with a particular thing, such as a food, a medication, an insect bite or sting, or some other material. Basically, the immune system sends out its military to fight an imaginary enemy, and this causes a negative reaction in the body. As a result, this response causes symptoms like rash, hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, paleness, redness, chest tightness, or fainting.

Usually, epinephrine is needed to stop the attack, and additional treatment options may include oxygen, intravenous fluids, or the use of an inhaler. Without treatment, anaphylaxis can kill a person, so it’s good to be aware of any allergens and carry proper medication if necessary.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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