Anaphylaxis: Severe Allergic Reactions
Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction that can stem from a reaction to food, radiology dyes, bee stings, drugs, and exercise. Education and first line immediate therapy and access to our allergists in case of anaphylaxis are the answers to safely managing these severe reactions.
Anaphylaxis reactions can be life threatening emergencies and is the most extreme form of an allergic reaction. There may be some increase risk in patients who already have an allergic background. Overall, about 1% of the population may be at risk of anaphylaxis. In adults, 90% of people experience skin symptoms like hives, itching, or flushing. In children, skin reactions are less common. Breathing difficulty is common, including chest tightness, throat tightening and/or swelling, wheezing, shortness of breath occurring in 40%-60% of cases. Gastrointestinal and/or heart and circulation problems occur in 65% of cases with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting with dizziness, racing heart, loss of consciousness, chest pain, and menstrual cramping. There may be multiple causes from foods, drugs, insect sting, and exercise. In about 20% of cases, the cause is unknown.
What is most important is to identify the cause if possible by proper skin testing, blood tests, and possibly drug or exercise challenge. Education about symptom recognition and acute epinephrine administration leads to fast, successful management in most cases.