What happens to body during anaphylaxis?

During anaphylaxis, the body experiences a widespread and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can affect multiple organ systems. Here is a general overview of what happens to the body during anaphylaxis:

  1. Trigger exposure: Anaphylaxis is typically triggered by exposure to an allergen to which the individual is sensitive. Common triggers include certain foods (such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish), medications (such as penicillin), insect stings, latex, or even exercise in rare cases.
  2. Immune system response: When a person with a predisposition to allergies encounters the trigger, their immune system recognizes it as a threat and launches an exaggerated immune response. The immune system releases large amounts of chemicals, including histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes, which initiate and drive the allergic reaction.
  3. Vasodilation and increased vascular permeability: Histamine and other chemicals cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow and decreased blood pressure. This can result in symptoms like flushing, redness, and a drop in blood pressure, which can be dangerous if severe.
  4. Respiratory system involvement: The airways can constrict, leading to difficulty breathing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Swelling and inflammation of the throat and tongue can also occur, potentially obstructing the airway and causing a life-threatening situation.
  5. Skin manifestations: Anaphylaxis often results in skin symptoms, such as hives (urticaria), itching, and angioedema (swelling). The skin may become red, flushed, or pale due to changes in blood flow.
  6. Gastrointestinal symptoms: Anaphylaxis can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea due to increased gut motility and inflammation.
  7. Cardiovascular effects: The combination of vasodilation and increased vascular permeability can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, called hypotension. This can result in dizziness, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, cardiovascular collapse.
  8. Systemic effects: Anaphylaxis can also affect other organ systems, such as the central nervous system, causing symptoms like anxiety, confusion, and a sense of impending doom. It can also impact the cardiovascular system, leading to arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or cardiac arrest in severe cases.
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It’s important to note that anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Epinephrine (adrenaline) is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, as it helps reverse the allergic response and stabilize the body’s vital functions. Seeking prompt medical care is crucial to prevent further complications and ensure appropriate management of anaphylaxis.