Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, with a rapid onsite, usually minutes to hours. And it can be life threatening.
Anaphylaxis is on the rise in the world, and that’s because allergies are also on the rise.
To develop an allergy and then subsequently possible anaphylaxis, you have to have been exposed to that particular substance before.
So for instance, you could have someone who eats shrimp all the time. And then at age 50, they develop a shellfish allergy and can’t eat the shrimp anymore.
There are really eight food groups that cause 90% of food allergies. So those include peanuts, tree nuts - most common cause of anaphylaxis in the U.S., milk, soy, wheat, shellfish, fish, and egg.
As far as medications that are the common triggers, penicillin is one of them and also NSAIDs. NSAIDs are medications like aspirin or ibuprofen.
And for insects, the common insect triggers are wasps, bees, hornets, and fire ants.
And so what are these symptoms that you get in anaphylaxis? Well, -- they affect four different organ systems in your body.
The first organ system is your skin and 80 to 90% of the time, you are going to have some skin manifestation so that includes usually itchiness or what we call pruritus and hives.
Now you can have also other things with your mucosa, which is the skin inside mouth and inside your nose and things like that, there can be swelling or itchiness of that mucosa.
Then the next organ system that can be affected is your respiratory system. So, what you can get is trouble breathing, you can feel like your throat is closing, you can get wheezing.
Another organ system that may affect is your GI tract, so you can get nauseous, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The fourth organ system that can be affected is your cardiovascular system. So, you may feel faint, you may have some fast heart rate and then often you can get hypotensive or meaning you have very low blood pressure.
So if you have anaphylactic attack, there are some medications that can be helpful.
Antihistamines are going to help your symptoms, things like diphenhydramine. That is something you can take.
Also you want to make sure you use your epinephrine auto-injector. This is the only thing that's really going to help prevent the continued progression of anaphylaxis ...
You want to make sure that you administer the epinephrine auto injector immediately and then call 911.
It’s a device that may be prescribed to you usually in a twin pack from your physician. And in this device, it has a medication called “epinephrine” in it.
Epinephrine will essentially reverse the effects of the symptoms of anaphylaxis. And the way you have to give it is through a needle. That’s in the device. But it’s very easy to use and it’s something you can give to yourself
And it’s something that may save your life.
If you have an anaphylactic reaction, where you have to use your epinephrine auto-injector, it’s important to make sure those around you know how to use it as well in case you are unable to do it yourself.
And it’s also important for you to let people know around you that you do have a particular allergy.
The risk factors for anaphylaxis are; one, if you’ve had anaphylaxis before, you are more at risk to have it again.
If you are an asthmatic, you have risks of having anaphylaxis. And if you have a family member that's had anaphylaxis, you may be at more risk at well.
So the way to prevent future anaphylaxis attacks is, if you know your trigger, you avoid it. That is the best way to prevent a future attack.
In the meantime you tell all your physicians what your particular allergies are if you know them.
And you also want to wear a medic alert bracelet or a necklace so that if you’re out shopping, then, if something happens, someone will know that you have an allergy to a particular trigger.
one thing I do with my patients who have had anaphylaxis, is I see them and come up with a specific plan for them and for what is triggering their anaphylaxis.
It’s called an anaphylaxis action plan and it talks to them about what particular medications to take and what those symptoms could be.
And so, it’s very important to have that relationship with your allergist so that you can work together for the best possible care.
Anaphylaxis is a serious disease process. So, it is important for you to keep your medications with you; to have your epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times in case you do have those symptoms.
But it isn’t something that can limit your lifestyle. You can still live life to the fullest because it is something that’s treatable as long as you keep your medications with you.