Allergies are a very common occurrence, with up to a quarter of the world’s population suffering from this condition. Most people who tend to suffer from severe allergic reactions can suffer from a life threatening emergency known as anaphylaxis. The recognition of symptoms and prompt response of taking the patient to an allergy clinic by peers and family members can make all the difference between life and death.
Here is a brief informative guide on what exactly is anaphylaxis? What are the symptoms you should look out for? What can cause such a severe life threatening condition? And how to respond efficiently.
What Is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening and potentially fatal condition in those who suffer from allergies with little to no control on symptoms, and suffer from severe allergic attacks. It can occur within seconds to minutes of exposure to a potential allergen, such as fur, pollen or any other harmful chemicals.
When exposed to a potential allergen, the patient’s immune system releases massive amounts of histamine all across the body that causes your system to enter a state of shock- lowering of the blood pressure, a fast beating heart, inability to breathe due to narrowing of the airways. Some patients also develop a peculiar rash, along with signs of nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis
As mentioned before, symptoms can rapidly develop within minutes after the exposure to the inciting agent. Sometimes, it may take a few hours for symptoms to develop. Owing to the sensitivity of the condition, both the patient and the family members must keep an eye out for any development of the following symptoms:
- Lowering of the blood pressure (hypotension)
- Inability to breathe, due to narrowing of the airways
- If you see the patient having difficulty in breathing, take a quick look inside the oral cavity for possible swelling and redness of the tongue and throat.
- Whistle like sounds as the patient tries to catch their breath (wheezing in particular for asthma patients)
- A rapid or weak pulse
- A possible skin reaction after exposure to the allergen, in the form of hives, itching or merely flushing
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Loss of consciousness in severe cases
Causes Of Anaphylaxis
In normal physiology, the immune system tends to produce a series of antibodies and chemicals that help the body to combat the negative effects of a foreign inciting agent. This is a perfectly normal protective mechanism if the foreign substance is actually harmful.
In people who suffer from severe allergic reactions, the immune system tends to exhibit an exaggerated response to the allergens. The protective mechanism suddenly becomes life threatening.
If you suffer from moderate to severe allergies, your general physician might have made you undergo an allergic testing system that identifies potential allergens and foods that you must avoid.
In children, the most common allergens that can induce an anaphylactic shock are food allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and milk.
In adults, apart from the food allergies, mentioned above, possible triggers include certain medications such as over the counter medicines, aspirin and antibiotics to name a few(Intravenous as well as oral drugs). Another very common cause of anaphylaxis are stings from bees, wasps, yellow jackets, ants and hornets. Other less common causes include exposure to latex and snake bites with possible exposure to venom.
Other less known inciting triggers may be as mundane as cold and hot weathers or aerobic exercise. Yes, studies have found a correlation with the occurrence of anaphylaxis and exercising. Asthma sufferers should take deep precautions when exercising outside or going for a stroll.
How To Respond?
As part of the ACLS protocol, the first thing to do is keep the patient safe and call an ambulance. If you’re a commoner, just check if the patient breathing and the heartbeat is audible.
Anaphylaxis cannot be managed at home, and should be treated at a proper facility with monitoring. A simple shot of epinephrine is all that can make the difference between life and death.
So here we go folks! Do follow these tips to know how to respond in a situation like this. If you suffer from allergies, I highly recommend getting an allergen test done from the best allergist Manassas, because prevention is always better than cure.