Anaphylactic shock


The ‘Anaphylaxis’ is regarded as the most severe reaction of allergy. This is deadly and life threatening for a person who have been suffering from hypersensitivity for a long time. Only some immediate action from a doctor or taking medicines can survive patients from deaths. Some people also call it Anaphylactic shock or reaction and both defines the same situation normally. But there is a slight difference between them in a technical sense. Actually Anaphylaxis is the most severe and worst possible reaction to allergy and anaphylactic shock is a form of anaphylaxis. This is very rare among people due to food allergy. Although very few people die due to this extreme reaction, but it is unfortunate that the number of deaths or sufferers are increasing each year. This is always a concern for an allergy sufferer. Usually the allergy reaction does not cause any death. But if the reaction is very severe or particularly saying if the sufferer gets the anaphylactic shock, then he/she is in danger.

There are various reasons for this severe reaction. The people who have been suffering from food allergy are always at risk for it if they keep ignoring it. Beside this asthma or eczema patient, some particular medicines, stings or bites from bees or other similar insects, exercises can also trigger the this reaction at any stage of life. Both babies and adults may suffer from this deadly shock. The common symptoms of the anaphylaxis are rashes, low blood pressure, breathing difficulties, swelling etc. Everyone specially those who have allergies to foods or dust should be careful about this shock. You should be aware about all possible symptoms that usually show up, potential dangers, risk factors and why it causes to people. Upon all these, the sufferers can take any precautionary steps or opt to for the most effective treatment to save their life.

Anaphylaxis Symptoms:

The symptoms or signs of anaphylactic shock can help to detect the reaction early and thus an immediate action can be taken.

  • A feeling of warmth.
  • A red, raised, itchy skin rash or hives.
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure, which can make patient feel faint and dizzy
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Alterations in heart rate
  • Collapse and unconsciousness
  • Diarrhea.
  • Difficulties in swallowing through the throat
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Feeling terrible or suspecting something bad about to happen.
  • Generalized flushing of the skin
  • Nausea
  • Restriction of the airways
  • Severe asthma

These symptoms may appear within a couple of minutes to hours depending on the reason. If the reaction triggers due to consuming any food allergen, then the shock might expose within a couple of hours. But if the reason is due to venom, sting or bites from insects then the probable time is 30 minutes. Note that, this is just an approximate time period and it might differ from person to person. It is not necessary to appear all the symptoms of anaphylaxis to show at a time but the patient has to determine it by feeling the severity.

The Reasons Behind Anaphylaxis:

This is very important to acquire enough knowledge about it which helps to understand the situation and take necessary treatment quickly. The anaphylactic shock causes mostly due to food allergens, medications, venom or bites by insects. Beside these there are few factors that can trigger this deadly reaction. It includes semen, latex, exercise (also known as exercise-induced anaphylaxis), physical factors, hormone changes, different food habits and so on. Some of the causes can’t be controlled as it entirely depends on the internal mechanism of the body and the construction is different from person to person. But there are certain things which are under control and the sufferer can easily detect and ignore them to live a normal life. This is unfortunate that still there are some causes which remain unknown to everyone and they are called ‘idiopathic anaphylaxis’. Although experts do extensive tests to catch it, but they can’t identify the exact reason for triggering. The sufferers have idiopathic anaphylaxis in more than 25% cases.

  • Food Allergy: In most cases, it is the food allergens which usually cause the severe reaction which we call anaphylaxis. Some people are unfortunately allergic to a particular food and when the reaction gets severe it turns to anaphylactic shock which is life threatening. The immune system of the body acts as a bodyguard and switched on whenever it suspects a foreign harmful substance is inserted in the body. On most occasions, the assumption about the characteristics of the substance is wrong. But this happens automatically and no one has any control over it. The immune system acts differently from person to person and this is why some people get allergic to a particular food and some don’t. The body immune system produces antibodies (IgE) which actually fights against the protein of the substance. Due to this, a new chemical called Histamine is produced which eventually creates the adverse effects in our body that call an allergy. The symptoms of allergy are usually mild and it becomes severe in rare cases. It may happen due to excessive consumption of allergens or because the patient is super sensitive to the allergen. When the hypersensitivity is severe, then sufferer can get into anaphylactic shock. The 8 most common food allergies – peanut, tree nut, egg, milk, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat always carry the highest risks of anaphylaxis. Beside this sesame, chickpeas do carry potential risks. The foods will vary depending on the location of the sufferer.
  • Medicines: Medication is another way to trigger anaphylaxis. You must be careful that the medicine of some treatment is not conflicting with the cause of anaphylactic reaction. Some of the antibiotics such as penicillin along with aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) are common medicines for it. There are vaccines, chemotherapy, IV contract which is used in X-ray imaging tests, morphine, protamine, herbal preparations that can trigger this deadly shock as well. But it does not suggest that every time you take one of those medicines, you will be suffering from the shock. The probability is very less. For instance, with penicillin it happens once for every 2,000 to 10,000 courses of treatment. But for aspirin and NSAIDs, the rate is even smaller, once in every 50,000 persons.
  • Insect Bites: There are several insects which throw venom through biting or stinging. In most cases it is a bee or wasp which triggers the anaphylaxis. Only a few rare, approximately one from every 100 people gets allergic reaction once an insect bite. Among them rarely anyone gets the anaphylactic shock. To get rid of it, make sure you are not living near to the jungle or woodland.
  • Exercises: Although anaphylactic shock does not trigger much due to exercise, but it can happen. The body structure is different from person to person and thus exercise-induced anaphylaxis will vary on this. The exercises such as jogging, walking can trigger the reaction. Sometime due to consuming a particular food in prior of exercising or exercising in hot or humid weather may result the same. In this case, you should definitely contact a doctor and ask for any precautionary medicines which may reduce the possibility of the shock. The possibility of exercise-induced anaphylaxis increases if one of your family members had it.

Diagnosis and Tests for Anaphylaxis:

It is important to diagnose the anaphylactic shock through medical tests for a proper treatment. This is considered as the worst possible reaction of allergy and thus the patient should contact a doctor immediately for the right treatment. If you are having an acute reaction and you had a history of suffering from an allergic reaction, then it is almost certain that this causes due to allergy. There are several tests that a doctor can conduct by looking at the symptoms of the patient. The blood test is inevitable to perform at this stage if you are having a severe reaction due to bites/stings from insects or after taking medicine. There are skin prick tests to detect food allergy. An expert allergist or immunology can suspect the cause almost immediately and upon conducting the test, he/she should be able to confirm it. In many cases, the shock returns within a few hours even after taking epinephrine injections. Thus the recommendation is to come under close observation of the doctor for a few days after the anaphylaxis. The doctor might ask you some relative questions such as what are the foods you took right before the allergic reaction, what kind of medicines you are taking on a daily basis or in prior of the reaction, whether you are suspecting any insect bite etc. So, try to recall the things that you did before the anaphylactic shock.

Treatment for Anaphylaxis:

There are few steps of anaphylactic shock treatment that every sufferer should know. If you have the shock or you’re suspecting some major health disasters, then call for emergency help. In case you are away from taking medical help, then it is the responsibility of the person whoever is with you to shoot epinephrine injections immediately. The person should be educated about how to use the injection in the proper way. Epinephrine is an adrenaline which is the most recommended medicine for anaphylaxis treatment. You can carry it in an auto injector and shot against the thigh whenever needed. The injector device contains a syringe and concealed needle and it delivers one dose of epinephrine when it is pressed. In most cases, one dose should do it. But still if you don’t  see any significant changes, then shot another dose of epinephrine if available. Don’t just give two doses immediately rather wait at least 10-15 minutes between them. If the patient wears any light fabric, then the injector can easily go through it. In case the patient wears any heavy clothes, remove it and then apply the injector for an effective result.