All that you need to know about anaphylaxis


Anaphylaxis is a hypersensitive allergic reactivity condition, which may result from a varied number of internal or external root causes. More than often, this type of allergic reaction is deemed to be life threatening and hence a close monitor is kept on people who succumb to it.

Causes of anaphylaxis

Allergens from various sources are the major causes of anaphylaxis. Allergens are the specific components in allergy-stimulating substances that result in the various signs and symptoms of the hypersensitivity. There are broadly three categories of causes, which lead to anaphylaxis:

  1. Food related allergies

Various foods have been associated with anaphylactic effects. Examples of some of the most common foods that contribute to this category are various nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, almonds; various fish including shrimp, scallops, oyster, lobster, crabs; plant seeds such as cotton seed, sesame, mustard; kiwi fruit; eggs; milk of cow and goat; and wheat products.

2. Drug interactions

Drug interactions of common drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and analgesics. Amongst the specialized drugs, interactions with morphines, polymyxins, sulphadrugs, and insulin drugs can also stimulate anaphylactic reactions.

3.Insect bites and pollen grains interactions

People who are allergic to flowers or leaves get easily affected by the stings of various bees and insects. These allergies are caused by the venom of the sting of insects and the chemical components in flowers, which potentially irritates the immune system of the body.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis may take anything from seconds to few minutes or hours to appear visibly. However, it has also been indicated through research studies that the more time the reactions take to appear, the less severe is its intensity. On an average, the symptoms of anaphylaxis are observed through the following:

  1. Oral reactions

These reactions include tingling of the mouth area and throat, inflammations in lips, tongue, and the palate. In few cases, edema of lips and tongue is also reported.

2. Skin reactions

Rashes, skin eruptions with flushing, urticaria i.e. hive on the skin with swollen itchy regions, are experienced, and noted as symptoms.

3. Gastrointestinal effects

Excessive and acute abdominal pain, vomiting and spurting of mucus with vomit, nausea, and diarrhea are the common symptoms of anaphylaxis.

4. Respiratory distractions

The major symptom noted is that of wheezing while comparatively on a smaller scale, presence of shortness of breath, gasping and difficulty in breathing, chest pain with constricting feeling are noticed.

5. Cardiovascular abnormalities

Due to anaphylaxis, often the patient feels chest pain, arrhythmic heart beat and pulse, and low blood pressure.


The diagnostic features of anaphylaxis involve the careful monitoring of the signs and symptoms for correctly identifying the nature of the problem, including the root cause of the allergy being caused. The following are the basic steps to be followed:

  1. Analyzing the symptom onset is recorded within few seconds to a few hours.
  2. Observing the appearance of skin reactions mainly those of hives, or wheezing, sneezing, and breathing troubles.
  3. Measuring the blood pressure and reporting it if found to be hypotensive with irregular heartbeat and pulse.
  4. Testing blood samples for tryptase enzyme in mast cells for examining the intensity of the allergic outbreak.
  5. Exhaustive testing for the source of the allergen, which can be in the form of Patch test for skin reactions or RAST blood test.
  6. Another generic testing is by using a questionnaire to narrow down on the suspected allergen in food, water, air, or internal sources.


It must be well noted that the longer the delay in the process of initial treatment, the more severe are the complications for the patient. It is advisable to review the possible causes of triggering the allergic reactions. The basic treatments are:

  1. In case of acute outbreak of allergy, an epinephrine injection should be immediately administered to soothe the condition on a temporary basis or until professional medical help is available.
  2. Since the person gets shocked with the allergy, it is advisable to calm down the person, make him lie down flat with the legs raised by twelve inches. A blanket should be used to cover the person and a pillow under the head for resting.
  3. If there is difficulty in breathing, the person should be laid down without a pillow rested under the head as it can block the airflow channel and aggravate the breathing further.
  4. After the initial treatments are given out, the patient should undergo detailed tests and therapy in order to identify the source, get medical help and immunotherapy can be tried with medical supervision.

This information can be treated as a handbook; however, before practicing anything, a medical expert should be consulted. It is always a wise streak not to practice self-medication, that too in this kind of allergic condition. Anaphylaxis is often a grave form of allergy, which if left untreated or insufficiently dealt with can lead to further life threatening complications or even death.

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