Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, triggering a rapid and systemic response throughout the body. Common triggers for anaphylaxis include certain foods (such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish), medications (such as penicillin or NSAIDs), insect stings, and latex.

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What happens to body during anaphylaxis?

Symptoms of anaphylaxis can develop rapidly, within minutes to hours after exposure to the allergen. They can vary from person to person but often involve multiple body systems. Common signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  1. Skin reactions: Itching, hives (urticaria), redness, and swelling of the skin.
  2. Respiratory symptoms: Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
  3. Cardiovascular symptoms: Rapid or weak pulse, low blood pressure (hypotension), dizziness, fainting, and pale or blue skin.
  4. Gastrointestinal symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
  5. Swelling: Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, face, or other parts of the body, known as angioedema.
  6. Feeling of impending doom or anxiety.

In severe cases of anaphylaxis, a person may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and respiratory distress, which can be life-threatening if not promptly treated.

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Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone is experiencing anaphylaxis or if you are experiencing these symptoms yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Call emergency services (911 in the United States) immediately.
  2. If you have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen), use it according to the instructions.
  3. Lie flat on your back with your legs elevated, if possible, to help maintain blood flow.
  4. If breathing is difficult, try to sit up and lean forward.
  5. Do not attempt to treat the symptoms at home without medical supervision.

Once in the care of medical professionals, they will administer appropriate treatments, such as additional doses of epinephrine, antihistamines, corticosteroids, intravenous fluids, and oxygen therapy, depending on the severity of the reaction.

If you have a known allergy or a history of anaphylaxis, it’s important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times and inform those around you about your allergy. Regular follow-up with an allergist or immunologist is recommended to manage and prevent future episodes of anaphylaxis.