What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction. The most common anaphylactic reactions are caused by food, insect bites, medications, and latex.

If you are allergic to a substance, your immune system overreacts to that allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.

These annoying symptoms usually occur in one place on the body.

However, some people are susceptible to a much more serious anaphylactic reaction that affects more than one part of the body at the same time.

Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment, including an injection of epinephrine and a visit to the hospital emergency room. If not treated properly, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Some people are at higher risk for anaphylaxis. If you have allergies or asthma and have a family history of anaphylaxis, your risk is higher. Also, if you have already experienced anaphylaxis, your risk of having another anaphylactic reaction increases.

Accurate diagnosis and successful treatment of allergies is essential to prevent anaphylaxis. An allergist / immunologist, often called an allergist, has special training and experience to diagnose the problem and help you develop a plan to protect it in the future.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • MOUTH : itchy, swollen lips and / or tongue
  • THROAT : itching, tightness / closure, hoarseness
  • SKIN : itching, hives, redness, swelling
  • INTESTINES : vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • LUNG : dyspnea, cough, wheezing
  • HEART : weak pulse, dizziness, fainting

Anaphylaxis can affect various organs and systems including the skin, upper and lower respiratory tract, the cardiovascular system, eyes, uterus, and bladder. Anaphylaxis has been confused with other reactions such as hyperventilation, anxiety attacks, alcohol intoxication, and low blood sugar.

Skin tests and / or blood tests for allergies can document sensitivity to various allergens that can cause anaphylaxis, such as bee venom, latex, foods, and some medications.

Common causes of anaphylaxis


Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the foods that cause most cases of anaphylaxis are peanuts, tree nuts (for example, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts), shellfish, fish, milk, eggs and preservatives.

Insect bite

Venom from the bite of insects, such as wasps, bees, paper wasps, hornets, and fire ants can cause serious and even fatal reactions in some people.


Almost any medicine can cause an allergic reaction. Common medications that can cause anaphylaxis are antibiotics and anticonvulsants. Certain postoperative fluids, vaccines, blood and blood products, radiocontrast agents, pain relievers, and other drugs can cause severe reactions.


Some products made with natural latex contain allergens that can cause reactions in sensitive people. The greatest danger of serious reactions occurs when latex comes in contact with moist areas of the body or internal surfaces during surgery.


Although it is not common, physical exercise can also trigger anaphylaxis. However, it doesn’t happen after every exercise session, and in some cases, it only happens after eating certain foods before exercising.

Anaphylaxis Treatment

The best ways to treat your condition are:

  • Avoid the allergens that trigger your allergic reactions
  • Be prepared for an emergency

If you are in danger of anaphylaxis, carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenaline). This is a single dose of medicine that is injected into the thigh during an anaphylactic emergency.

It is important for you, your family members and others who are in contact with you to know how to use this injection.


Prevention of Anaphylaxis

The best treatment for anaphylaxis is prevention. People known to be sensitive to some foods that cause anaphylaxis should avoid these specific foods.

If you have had an anaphylactic reaction, you should be evaluated by a specialist. If possible take oral medications instead of injections. Follow your doctor’s directions for the proper use of prescribed medications.

It is important to wait at least 20 minutes in the doctor’s office after an injection of a medicine or the application of an allergy vaccine since if a reaction occurs it will be treated in a timely manner. Give your doctor a detailed and accurate medical history.

Those with life-threatening allergies should wear a Medical-Alert bracelet and should know how to use an epinephrine or adrenaline case and carry it with them at all times. These kits can be obtained by prescription.