MediFind
Condition

Anaphylaxis

Condition 101

What is the definition of Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening type of allergic reaction.

What are the alternative names for Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylactic reaction; Anaphylactic shock; Shock - anaphylactic; Allergic reaction - anaphylaxis

What are the causes for Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, whole-body allergic reaction to a chemical that has become an allergen. An allergen is a substance that can cause an allergic reaction.

After being exposed to a substance such as bee sting venom, the person's immune system becomes sensitized to it. When the person is exposed to that allergen again, an allergic reaction may occur. Anaphylaxis happens quickly after the exposure. The condition is severe and involves the whole body.

Tissues in different parts of the body release histamine and other substances. This causes the airways to tighten and leads to other symptoms.

Some drugs (morphine, x-ray dye, aspirin, and others) may cause an anaphylactic-like reaction (anaphylactoid reaction) when people are first exposed to them. These reactions are not the same as the immune system response that occurs with true anaphylaxis. But, the symptoms, risk of complications, and treatment are the same for both types of reactions.

Anaphylaxis can occur in response to any allergen. Common causes include:

  • Drug allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Insect bites/stings

Pollen and other inhaled allergens rarely cause anaphylaxis. Some people have an anaphylactic reaction with no known cause.

Anaphylaxis is life threatening and can occur at any time. Risks include a history of any type of allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms for Anaphylaxis?

Symptoms develop quickly, often within seconds or minutes. They may include any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling anxious
  • Chest discomfort or tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, or high-pitched breathing sounds
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Hives, itchiness, redness of the skin
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  • Unconsciousness

What are the current treatments for Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is an emergency condition that needs medical attention right away. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.

Check the person's airway, breathing, and circulation, which are known as the ABC's of Basic Life Support. A warning sign of dangerous throat swelling is a very hoarse or whispered voice, or coarse sounds when the person is breathing in air. If necessary, begin rescue breathing and CPR.

  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Calm and reassure the person.
  • If the allergic reaction is from a bee sting, scrape the stinger off the skin with something firm (such as a fingernail or plastic credit card). Do not use tweezers. Squeezing the stinger will release more venom.
  • If the person has emergency allergy medicine on hand, help the person take or inject it. Do not give medicine through the mouth if the person is having difficulty breathing.
  • Take steps to prevent shock. Have the person lie flat, raise the person's feet about 12 inches (30 centimeters), and cover the person with a coat or blanket. Do not place the person in this position if a head, neck, back, or leg injury is suspected, or if it causes discomfort.
  • DO NOT:

    • Do not assume that any allergy shots the person has already received will provide complete protection.
    • Do not place a pillow under the person's head if they are having trouble breathing. This can block the airways.
    • Do not give the person anything by mouth if they are having trouble breathing.

    Paramedics or other providers may place a tube through the nose or mouth into the airways. Or emergency surgery will be done to place a tube directly into the trachea.

    The person may receive medicines to further reduce symptoms.

    What is the outlook (prognosis) for Anaphylaxis?

    Anaphylaxis can be life threatening without prompt treatment. Symptoms usually do get better with the right therapy, so it is important to act right away.

    What are the possible complications for Anaphylaxis?

    Without prompt treatment, anaphylaxis may result in:

    • Blocked airway
    • Cardiac arrest (no effective heartbeat)
    • Respiratory arrest (no breathing)
    • Shock

    When should I contact a medical professional for Anaphylaxis?

    Call 911 or the local emergency number if you or someone you know develops severe symptoms of anaphylaxis. Or, go to the nearest emergency room.

    How do I prevent Anaphylaxis?

    To prevent allergic reactions and anaphylaxis:

    • Avoid triggers such as foods and medicines that have caused an allergic reaction in the past. Ask detailed questions about ingredients when you are eating away from home. Also carefully examine ingredient labels.
    • If you have a child who is allergic to certain foods, introduce one new food at a time in small amounts so you can recognize an allergic reaction.
    • People who know that they have had serious allergic reactions should wear a medical ID tag.
    • If you have a history of serious allergic reactions, carry emergency medicines (such as a chewable antihistamine and injectable epinephrine or a bee sting kit) according to your provider's instructions.
    • Do not use your injectable epinephrine on anyone else. They may have a condition (such as a heart problem) that could be worsened by this drug.

    REFERENCES

    Barksdale AN, Muelleman RL. Allergy, hypersensitivity, and anaphylaxis. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 109.

    Dreskin SC, Stitt JM. Anaphylaxis. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 75.

    Shaker MS, Wallace DV, Golden DBK, et al. Anaphylaxis-a 2020 practice parameter update, systematic review, and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) analysis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020;145(4):1082-1123. PMID: 32001253 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32001253/.

    Schwartz LB. Systemic anaphylaxis, food allergy, and insect sting allergy. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 238.

    Top Global Doctors

    KB
    Elite
    Knut Brockow
    Munich, BY, DE
    HP
    Elite
    Hae-sim S. Park
    Suwon, 41, KR
    MW
    Elite
    Margitta Worm
    Berlin, BE, DE
    MM
    Elite
    Maria A. Muraro
    Padova, 34, IT
    ES
    Elite
    Estelle R. Simons
    Winnipeg, MB, CA

    Latest Research

    Latest Advance
    Study
    • Condition: Cold Agglutinin Disease (CAD)
    • Journal: Scientific reports
    • Treatment Used: Rituximab-Containing Therapy
    • Number of Patients: 16
    • Published —
    This study analyzed the response to rituximab-containing therapy in patients with cold agglutinin disease (CAD), a rare form of autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
    Latest Advance
    Study
    • Condition: Iron Deficiency
    • Journal: The Journal of heart and lung transplantation : the official publication of the International Society for Heart Transplantation
    • Treatment Used: Iron Sucrose
    • Number of Patients: 54
    • Published —
    In this study, researchers evaluated the safety and effectiveness of IV iron sucrose for the treatment of iron deficiency in patients with a left ventricular assist device.
    Latest Advance
    Study
    • Condition: Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting in Patients with Breast Cancer Receiving Anthracycline and Cyclophosphamide Chemotherapy
    • Journal: The oncologist
    • Treatment Used: NEPA (neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist)
    • Number of Patients: 402
    • Published —
    The purpose of the study was to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of intravenous NEPA for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in patients with breast cancer receiving anthracycline and cyclophosphamide chemotherapy.
    Latest Advance
    Study
    • Condition: Acute kidney injury with severe hemolysis and thrombocytopenia due to hematotoxic (Russell's viper) snake bite
    • Journal: Saudi journal of kidney diseases and transplantation : an official publication of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, Saudi Arabia
    • Treatment Used: Plasmapheresis
    • Number of Patients: 1
    • Published —
    The study researched the outcomes of plasmapheresis in patients with acute kidney injury with severe hemolysis and thrombocytopenia due to hematotoxic (Russell's viper) snake bite.

    Clinical Trials

    Clinical Trial
    Other
    • Status: Recruiting
    • Participants: 300
    • Start Date: August 20, 2021
    Opioid-Redox Study
    Clinical Trial
    Other
    • Status: Recruiting
    • Study Type: Other
    • Participants: 60
    • Start Date: July 16, 2019
    Comparison of Protocols for Re-introducing Tree Nuts in Patients With Allergy to Tree Nuts
    Clinical Trial
    Drug
    • Status: Recruiting
    • Study Type: Drug
    • Participants: 10
    • Start Date: July 1, 2019
    Protection From Food Induced Anaphylaxis by Reducing the Serum Level of Specific IgE (Protana).