Posted on Aug 8, 2017 5:55pm PDT

When an individual is deathly allergic to something, this reaction is known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, which can affect more than one system within the body, including the airways, heart, circulation, skin, and gut. The symptoms of anaphylaxis occur suddenly, usually within seconds or minutes of exposure to the substance an individual is allergic to and progresses quite rapidly. In more rare cases, it is possible for there to be a delay in the onset of symptoms of a few hours.

Causes of Anaphylaxis

A vast range of foods, materials, drugs and other factors can cause anaphylaxis. Most commonly, peanuts, tree nuts, milk eggs, shellfish, fish, kiwi fruit, and many other foods have been known to trigger this deathly allergic reaction. Non-food causes include bee and wasp stings, natural latex, and certain drugs like penicillin.

Lastly, in rarer cases, exercise can trigger a severe reaction, sometimes on its own or combined with drugs or specific foods.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

A person suffering from anaphylaxis will experience a dramatic drop in blood pressure, become weak, and limp. This could lead to eventual collapse, unconsciousness, and even death.

Additionally, other symptoms include:

  • Flushing of the skin
  • Nettle rash, also known as hives or urticaria
  • Swelling of the skin on any part of the body
  • Swollen lips
  • Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting

These symptoms might occur on their own or along with more severe ones. While there are several types of reactions and symptoms, there are two main categories known as uniphasic and bi-phasic.

  • Uniphasic: Symptoms that occur quickly and rapidly worsen. Once treated, however, the symptoms go away without recurrence.
  • Bi-Phasic: Symptoms that are mild or severe at first, then followed by a lack of symptoms, which later increase again. This also includes breathing and blood pressure issues.

If you experience these symptoms and believe you are having an anaphylactic reaction, you will need an observation period in a hospital in case your reaction is bi-phasic. Bi-phasic reactions occur within hours of an initial reaction. In fact, they can sometimes occur as long as 72 hours after one’s initial anaphylactic reaction.

In rarer cases, protracted anaphylaxis can occur, which lasts several days and may require long-term hospital treatment.

Treatments for Severe Anaphylactic Reactions

Pre-loaded epinephrine auto-injectors that contain adrenaline are often prescribed for those who are most at risk for anaphylaxis. Those who are most at risk include:

  • Individuals whose asthma is poorly controlled
  • Individuals who are suffering from an infection or recently had one
  • Those who exercise before or after coming into contact with an allergen
  • Individuals who suffer from aeroallergen symptoms such as hay fever
  • Individuals who have been drinking alcohol
  • Those enduring times of major emotional distress

About Our Allergy and Asthma Services

The Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia is based in Atlanta and specializes in providing award-winning care to those suffering from breathing problems due to allergies, sinus, asthma or other medical conditions. Our board-certified allergists and physicians provide the best comprehensive care and treatment for patients in Atlanta.

To learn more about our allergy and asthma center or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (404) 994-3574. We offer same day appointments for new and existing patients.