Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Allergy & Immunology located in South Bay, Manhattan Beach, CA
Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction you can develop. It can happen within seconds of exposure to an allergen and may rapidly progress to become life-threatening, so it's essential to recognize the signs and take quick action. Dr. Charles Song and Dr. Andrew Wong at the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology are experts in treating and preventing allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. If you have questions or need help with your allergies, call their office in Manhattan Beach, California, or book an appointment online.
Anaphylaxis Q & A
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction. During this process, your body releases chemicals which cause an exaggerated multi-organ response. The amount of allergen exposure it takes to induce anaphylaxis is different for each person. The best way to protect your health is to be prepared for a potential anaphylactic reaction by working with your doctor at the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis can present with many different symptoms. The most common symptoms involve the skin and respiratory systems, while the most dangerous and life-threatening symptoms include airway obstruction and low blood pressure.
The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Respiratory: difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness
- Skin: hives, swelling, itching, or flushing
- Cardiovascular: low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, or cardiac arrest
- Neurological: confusion, dizziness, or fainting
- Gastrointestinal: nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Symptoms may begin within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen. Importantly, up to 20% of patients have a biphasic reaction, which means they experience a second wave of anaphylactic symptoms as long as 12 hours after their initial reaction.
What allergens are most likely to cause anaphylaxis?
Across all age groups, the three most common triggers of anaphylactic reactions are:
- Food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, fish, shellfish)
- Insect stings (bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets, fire ants)
- Medications (antibiotics, over-the-counter pain relievers, intravenous contrast)
Other triggers include latex and environmental allergens such as plant pollens and animal dander. A rare cause of anaphylaxis is exercise-induced anaphylaxis where you develop a severe reaction during intense aerobic activity. Even more uncommon is the phenomenon is known as food-dependent exercise-induced-anaphylaxis. With this condition, you develop anaphylaxis only after eating certain foods before exercising.
Are you at a higher risk for anaphylaxis?
A few factors that may increase your risk include:
If you have one anaphylactic attack, your risk of future anaphylaxis increases. Future reactions may be more severe than the first one, so it’s important to be prepared with an epinephrine auto-injector.
People who have asthma or a food allergy are at greater risk of experiencing anaphylaxis.
Other medical conditions
People with heart disease or a condition called mastocytosis may have a higher risk of anaphylaxis.
How is anaphylaxis treated?
During an anaphylactic attack, you need to call 9-1-1 so you can receive help immediately. Treatment consists of:
- Epinephrine, or adrenaline, to reverse the allergic reaction
- Inhaled beta-agonists and oxygen to help improve breathing
- Antihistamines to counteract the allergic reaction
- Steroids to reduce the inflammatory response
Dr. Song and Dr. Wong at the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology prescribe epinephrine auto-injectors for the management of anaphylaxis. They will train you to recognize when to use the device and how to use your particular device. You should remember to keep a pair of epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times, so they’re there when you need them. Lastly, you may want to consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.
If you’ve experienced anaphylaxis or you have questions about any possible symptoms, don’t wait. Call the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology or book an appointment using the online scheduling tool.