Some allergies can lead to a severe or systemic allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may involve a rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and other severe symptoms. Typically, anaphylaxis affects more than one system of the body, but may only affect one system at the start of the reaction. Systemic allergic reactions can be fatal if not treated, yet not everyone with allergies needs to be concerned about anaphylaxis. Here is what you need to know.
Symptoms and Treatment
There are several symptoms of anaphylaxis that can occur. These symptoms usually occur immediately (within 30 minutes to 2 hours) after exposure to an allergen. Some of the common symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Red rash, hives, or generalized itching
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Difficulty swallowing or talking
- Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
The treatment of choice for anaphylaxis or a systemic allergic reaction is intramuscular (injected) epinephrine. If you know that you have allergies that could cause anaphylaxis, you should always carry epinephrine pens or autoinjectors. Use your epinephrine immediately when you have a reaction. After using your epinephrine or if you don’t have access to epinephrine, call 911 and seek the nearest emergency room for treatment. You should also follow-up with an allergist afterwards.
Whether or not you are at risk of anaphylaxis depends on several factors. The most common allergies to cause anaphylaxis are those to foods, insect stings, medications, or latex. Your risk of anaphylaxis is further increased if you have one of these allergies and asthma. The route of exposure can also increase the risk of anaphylaxis. For example, injected medications are more likely to cause severe allergic reactions than medications given by mouth.
If you have one of the common allergies which can cause anaphylaxis, it is important that you visit us right away for allergy testing, diagnosis, and treatment. If you are at a higher risk for anaphylaxis, you will need to be extremely careful and follow the doctor’s orders closely.
Epinephrine at School
Many schools and daycares require doctor’s notes or forms to be filled out in order for you or your child to store and receive epinephrine treatment at their facility. Contact our office if you need these forms completed to prevent a delay in epinephrine availability.
Still not sure if you should be concerned about the possibility of anaphylaxis? Contact us today to schedule an appointment to learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of your allergies.