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Anaphylaxis

You may have heard of people having an anaphylactic reaction to food – peanuts is the one most often talked about in the media. But what is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic reaction is a severe and rapid allergic reaction involving many of the body’s organ systems (digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, immune). An anaphylactic reaction occurs when a person is exposed to an allergen to which they have already become sensitized. An anaphylactic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and death within minutes if left untreated. Anaphylaxis is considered rare, but for someone at risk, it is important to take precautions and be prepared for an emergency.

Foods that cause anaphylaxis:
The foods that most often are the cause of anaphylaxis are:

  • peanuts
  • nuts
  • shellfish
  • milk
  • eggs
  • wheat
  • Some fruits (i.e., kiwi, mango) and vegetables (i.e., celery, potato, peas, soy) have also been reported as the cause of anaphylactic reactions.

Symptoms of anaphylactic reaction:
The symptoms of anaphylactic reaction occur in different parts of the body:

  • Mouth – burning, itching, or swelling of the face, lips, inside the mouth and throat
  • Stomach – nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps
  • Skin – itching, hives, flushed appearance (redness of the skin
  • Respiratory – tightness in chest, difficulty breathing, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing
  • Other – Fainting, feeling warm, anxiety, rapid pulse, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness

The time between exposure to the allergen and the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can vary from seconds to 30 minutes to an hour or more. This depends on the sensitivity of the person and the amount of allergen ingested. Not all of these symptoms occur in each person or in each case of anaphylaxis.

There is also something called exercise-induced anaphylaxis. This is an anaphylactic reaction that occurs while a person is strenuously exercising, up to 2 hours after eating or drinking. Foods known to have caused exercise-induced anaphylaxis include shellfish, wheat, and celery.

Treatment of anaphylaxis:

People with a severe allergy usually carry an EpiPen or Twinject - auto-injectors that administers epinephrine. These injections can relax constricted airways in the lungs to help a person breathe, constrict small blood vessels to reverse dropping blood pressure, and reverse hives and reduce swelling around the face and lips. See how to use an EpiPen or Twinject.