Anaphylaxis does not typically progress through specific stages. Instead, it is a rapid and severe allergic reaction that can affect multiple organ systems simultaneously. The symptoms of anaphylaxis often develop quickly and can worsen rapidly. However, it’s important to note that the severity and progression of anaphylaxis can vary from person to person.
That being said, it is sometimes useful to describe anaphylaxis in terms of its clinical features or manifestations, which can include four main components:
- Onset and trigger: Anaphylaxis usually occurs shortly after exposure to an allergen or trigger. The trigger could be a food, medication, insect sting, or another substance that the individual is allergic to. The onset of symptoms is often rapid, typically within minutes to a few hours.
- Skin and mucosal symptoms: Anaphylaxis commonly involves skin manifestations such as hives (urticaria), itching, flushing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face (angioedema). These symptoms may be accompanied by a sense of warmth or redness of the skin.
- Respiratory symptoms: Anaphylaxis frequently affects the respiratory system, leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and coughing. These symptoms can be indicative of airway constriction and are of particular concern in anaphylaxis.
- Cardiovascular symptoms: Anaphylaxis can also impact the cardiovascular system, causing low blood pressure (hypotension), a rapid or weak pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness, and potentially leading to shock. Cardiovascular symptoms in anaphylaxis may result from blood vessel dilation and increased permeability.
It’s important to remember that anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention and treatment with epinephrine. If you suspect anaphylaxis or experience severe allergic symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance by calling emergency services (such as 911 in the United States) or visiting the nearest emergency room.