Understanding Anaphylaxis and Its Most Common Symptoms
Most people are fortunate enough never to have to hear the word anaphylaxis. Others know bits and pieces of information from TV or movies, but they still have no direct knowledge.
Then, there are the rest. The rest are the ones who have lived through the power of anaphylaxis and spend their time worrying that it will strike again.
Anaphylaxis is such an impactful condition that everyone should work to gain as much information as possible. No matter how much you think you know about the response, there is always another nugget of information that can potentially save your life or the life of a loved one.
Anaphylaxis: Knowing the Basics
When people think of anaphylaxis, they probably think about some having a severe reaction to a bee sting or other trigger. They think about the person getting sick, swelling, and feeling ill, but they may not grasp what is happening in the body.
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that affects the whole body. The reaction is set in motion by an allergen to which the body has become sensitized.
Anaphylaxis is usually immediate and quite severe. Many allergens can trigger an anaphylactic reaction, including:
- Certain foods like peanuts, shellfish, and berries
- Medications like antibiotics
- Venomous stings from bees or other insects
Anaphylaxis Most Common Symptoms
Because anaphylaxis can turn deadly in a short amount of time, people must identify the signs and symptoms quickly so that they can respond appropriately.
One of the first signs that someone is headed towards anaphylaxis is itchiness. Hives and redness on the skin can erupt with the itchiness focused in one location, or the itchiness can be widespread throughout the body.
Of course, there are many times you will feel itchy, and most of them will have nothing to do with an allergic reaction. It can be a good opportunity, though, to reflect on any known allergens that you could have had contact with.
Like other signs of anaphylaxis, taking action quickly can be the difference between a mild inconvenience and a deadly situation.
Swelling of the Face, Lips, or Tongue
Seconds or minutes after exposure to the allergen, you could notice swelling on any part of your body. The swelling could occur anywhere, but most people notice it on their face, lips, or tongue.
You could notice numbness that accompanies the swelling, or you could find it challenging to speak normally. Since you might not notice these signs that often point towards a problem, ask a friend or loved one if your face, lips, or tongue look odd.
If an insect bite or sting sparks your anaphylaxis, the location of the sting could be the first to swell. Investigate the source to ensure you know what you are up against.
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Dizziness, Lightheadedness, or Unconsciousness
As the allergens spark a chain reaction in your body, all systems are influenced. Anaphylaxis frequently leads to feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, or faint.
In most cases, a significant drop in blood pressure is the cause of these symptoms. Depending on the situation, the dizziness will slowly lead to lightheadedness, or the progression could be rapid.
Some people will pass out a short amount of time after the anaphylactic reaction starts. As if the spread of histamine throughout the body was not bad enough, you can suffer serious injuries due to falling after losing consciousness.
Abdominal Pain, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea
Before long, the digestive system becomes the target of anaphylaxis. When this happens, you could feel extreme discomfort in your stomach and abdomen.
Aside from pain, the condition could create nausea and vomiting. Alternatively, you could experience intense and unexpected diarrhea from an allergic reaction.
Some people may only endure one of these gastrointestinal symptoms, while others are prone to each.
Palpitations with Chest Pain and Discomfort
The cardiovascular system is not immune to the impact of anaphylaxis. Along with the drop in blood pressure associated with fainting, the reaction can induce a weak and rapid pulse.
People may feel heart palpitations they confuse for a heart attack or anxiety. Other people will report extreme pain and discomfort in the chest.
Though the cause of the symptoms is not cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis is just as dangerous.
Trouble Breathing or Swallowing
Lastly, the lungs and pulmonary system are impacted by anaphylaxis. When symptoms reach this level, the person’s breathing is affected.
Anaphylaxis can result in coughing, wheezing, and other breathing difficulties. Here, you could hyperventilate or have very labored breathing.
Your throat may swell and close, which will lead to trouble swallowing.
The Bottom Line
Anyone trying to manage their anaphylactic symptoms for the first time should not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Those with prior experiences should immediately use their Epi-pen. Reacting quickly could be the difference between life and death.