Anaphylaxis symptoms and causes

Anaphylaxis symptoms and causes

Anaphylaxis is rare, yet most people recover from it. However, suppose you, too, suffer from anaphylaxis. In that case, you must know the basic information regarding the symptoms and what causes an anaphylactic shock. Here we have compiled precise information that may be beneficial for you.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxisis an acute, potentially life-threatening hypersensitivity response. It entails the release of mediators from mast cells, basophils and recruited inflammatory cells. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that is severe and needs immediate treatment. It may occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you're allergic to, like bee stings or peanuts.

Anaphylaxis causes your immune system to let out a stream of chemicals that may cause you to go into shock. As a result, blood pressure drops at once, and the airways narrow, blocking breathing.

Anaphylaxis is an allergic state consisting of several signs, alone or in combination, which may happen in minutes or a few hours after exposure to a provoking trigger. Anaphylactic shock may be mild, moderate, or severe. Mostly, cases are mild, but any anaphylaxis has the potential to become life-threatening.

Anaphylaxis usually develops rapidly, reaching peak severity in 5 to 30 minutes, and may seldom last for several days.

Anaphylaxis requires an epinephrine injection and a follow-up trip to an emergency room. If you don't have epinephrine, you must immediately go to an emergency room. If anaphylaxis isn't treated immediately, it can be fatal.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

The initial signs of an anaphylactic reaction may look like allergy symptoms, like a runny nose or skin rash. Anaphylaxis usually develops suddenly and gets worse very quickly. Within 30 minutes, more severe signs start appearing. The symptom may include more than one of these:

  • Rash
  • Red skin
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Clammy skin
  • Urticaria
  • Pruritus
  • Angioedema
  • Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
  • Swollen or itchy throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tightness in throat
  • Itchy watery eyes
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Bronchospasm
  • Constriction of the airways
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Shortness of breath/trouble breathing
  • Fast or shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Weak/rapid pulse
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Swelling in parts of the body, particularly fingers
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Uterine cramps
  • Urinary urgency
  • Incontinence
  • Hyperperistalsis with faecal urgency

The initial expression of anaphylaxis may be loss of consciousness. In addition, patients often describe a sense of doom right before the attack. In this instance, the symptoms of anaphylaxis are limited to one organ system, but since anaphylaxis is a systemic event, two or more systems are involved in the vast majority of people.

On average, 1 out of every 5 persons may have a second anaphylactic reaction within 12 hours of the first. This is called biphasic anaphylaxis.

Protracted anaphylaxis may occur with signs lasting for days. Death may occur within minutes but is rarely reported to occur days to weeks after the first anaphylactic event.

Causes of Anaphylaxis

Our immune system produces antibodies that fight and defend against odd substances. This is beneficial when the strange substance is detrimental, like some bacteria or viruses. But sometimes, people's immune systems overreact to substances that don't usually cause allergic responses.

Allergy symptoms are not usually life-threatening, but a severe allergic reaction may lead to anaphylaxis. Suppose you or your child has had only a mild anaphylactic reaction in the past. In that case, there's a risk of a more severe anaphylaxis after another contact with the allergy-causing substance.

Food glycoprotein is capable of producing an anaphylactic reaction. Foods most frequently implicated in anaphylaxis are:

  • Peanut (a legume)
  • Tree nuts (walnut, hazelnut/filbert, cashew, pistachio nut, Brazil nut, pine nut, almond)
  • Milk (cow, goat)
  • Chicken eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, oyster, scallops)
  • Fruits, vegetables
  • Seeds (cotton seed, sesame, mustard)

Food sensitivity may be so severe that a systemic allergic reaction can happen due to particle inhalation, such as the odours of cooked fish or the opening of a package of peanuts.

A severe allergy to pollen, such as ragweed, grass or tree pollen, may indicate that a person may be susceptible to anaphylaxis or oral allergy syndrome. Pollen/food syndrome, manifested primarily by severe oropharyngeal itching, with or without facial angioedema, is caused by eating certain plant-derived foods. This is due to homologous allergens found between pollens and foods. For example, the primary allergen of all grasses is profiling. It is a pan-allergen in many plants, pollens and fruits, and grass-sensitive persons may sometimes react to many plant-derived foods.

Typical aero-allergen food cross-reactivities are:

  • Birch pollen: Apple, raw potato, carrot, celery and hazelnut
  • Mugwort pollen: Celery, apple, peanut and kiwifruit
  • Ragweed pollen: Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew) and banana
  • Latex: Banana, avocado, kiwifruit, chestnut and papaya

A substance that is likely to trigger an allergic reaction is called an allergen. It may include:

  • Some medications, like penicillin and penicillin-based antibiotics, aspirin and pain killers without prescription, and intravenous (IV) contrast for some imaging tests
  • Stings from wasps, bees, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants
  • Dust mites
  • Animal/pet dander
  • Mould
  • Latex

Sometimes people develop anaphylaxis from aerobic exercises, such as jogging, or even less extreme physical activity, such as walking. Eating certain foods before a workout or exercising when the weather is hot, cold or humid is also linked to anaphylaxis in some people. Talk to your healthcare provider regarding precautions to take while exercising.

If you don't identify what triggers your allergy attack, specific tests can help identify the allergen. However, in some cases, the cause of anaphylaxis is not specified (idiopathic anaphylaxis).

Risk factors

There are not many known risk aspects for anaphylaxis, but some things that might increase the chance of anaphylactic shock may be:

·         Previous anaphylaxis 

If you've had anaphylaxis once, the risk of having this serious reaction doubles. Your future reactions might be more severe than the initial reaction.

·         Allergies or asthma 

People with asthma and other allergies are at increased threat of having anaphylaxis.

·         Other conditions 

These can include heart disease and an irregular accumulation of a specific type of white blood cell (mastocytosis).


Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergy and a medical emergency as it can lead to a sudden, life-threatening respiratory failure. People with anaphylaxis have extreme difficulty breathing, swelling, low blood pressure, bluish skin and shock.

Foods, pollen, dust mites, animal or pet dander, bee or wasp stings, and medications are a few allergens that can trigger allergies.

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