Most people have some experience with allergies, even if it’s just sneezing when the pollen is heavy. But, some people have more severe allergies that can lead to a certain type of reaction called anaphylaxis.
The providers and staff members at Apex Medical Center treat numerous patients who have allergies. Although any allergen can lead to anaphylaxis, some people are at a greater risk than others. In this post, we discuss the most common triggers for anaphylaxis, as well as what you should know if you have allergies.
Allergens and anaphylaxis
An allergen is any substance that can cause an allergic reaction, which is when your immune system treats a harmless substance as a dangerous invader. To defend itself from the “invader,” your immune system makes a specific antibody, which is what causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
When an allergic reaction is severe and involves your whole body, it’s called anaphylaxis. This type of reaction happens very quickly when you’re exposed to the allergen.
What happens during anaphylaxis
During anaphylaxis, your whole body responds to the exposure to the allergen and releases numerous chemicals. You may have some of the common symptoms of an allergic reaction such as coughing, wheezing, itching, sneezing, and a runny nose.
Your blood pressure drops suddenly and it becomes more difficult to breathe as your airways narrow. Your tongue or lips may swell or feel numb.
At the same time, your pulse may become weak and rapid. Some people develop a rash on their skin and many become nauseous and you may vomit. Without treatment, you may go into shock and lose consciousness.
Many different substances can cause allergic reactions, and any of them can cause anaphylaxis. However, there are some substances that are more likely to lead to a severe reaction than others. The common causes of anaphylaxis include:
- Certain drugs
- Insect bites or stings
Pollen, which is a very common allergen, rarely causes anaphylaxis. But, it’s also possible to have an anaphylactic reaction with no known cause.
Treatment for anaphylaxis
Epinephrine is the most effective treatment for anaphylaxis. If you have allergies that put you at risk for anaphylaxis, your doctor has probably prescribed an auto-injector that delivers a dose of epinephrine. The most well-known brand is EpiPen®.
If you suspect you’re having an anaphylactic reaction, you hold the auto-injector against your thigh and activate it. This releases a dose of epinephrine, which immediately acts to stop the progression of the reaction.
Seek medical advice
If you suspect you’re allergic to a certain substance, it’s very important for you to be tested so that you’ll have potentially life-saving treatment with you in case of exposure. We can’t predict exactly who might have an anaphylactic reaction, we can prescribe epinephrine for patients who are at most risk.
Schedule your appointment for allergy testing today. We’re always happy to answer your questions and discuss your personal risk.