By Amanda MacMillan
Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD
You could save someone's life if you know how to recognize and handle the dangerous allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Are you ready? Check to make sure you understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Myth #1: Anaphylaxis is always obvious.
Fact: You might picture anaphylaxis as a dramatic, “I can't breathe” problem, but it doesn’t always look like that to other people.
Having trouble breathing is often, but not always, a sign. Other symptoms can include itchy skin or hives, trouble swallowing, digestive problems, chest pains, dizziness or fainting, or simply feeling like something really bad is happening.
Anaphylaxis affects more than one organ, says David Stukus, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "So somebody could be vomiting and having trouble breathing, or vomiting with hives, but any combination of these things should make you act promptly."
Symptoms can be mild at first, “but the scary thing is it can progress very rapidly," Stukus says. "Some people may not show any outward symptoms. They may just feel that sense of doom and have very mild hives, then all of a sudden their throat swells shut."
Myth #2: It happens right away.
Fact: Anaphylaxis usually happens within 5 to 30 minutes of being exposed to one of your allergy triggers -- usually an insect sting, a food (like nuts or shellfish), a medication, or a material like latex. But in rare cases, symptoms may not start for more than an hour afterward.
After treatment, anaphylaxis symptoms can come back later. That's why it's so important to go to the hospital, where you can be watched for several hours after having a serious allergic reaction, even if you think it's under control, Stukus says.
Myth #3: If your previous reaction was mild, you don't have to worry.
Fact: If you have asthma, eczema, allergies, or a family history of serious allergic reactions, you are more likely to have anaphylaxis. Even if your allergies have never been life-threatening before, that doesn't mean you're in the clear.
"Often people feel comforted if their prior reactions were mild, and they don't realize their next reaction could be very different and very bad," Stukus says.
If you have a history of allergies, talk with your doctor about whether you’re at risk for anaphylaxis and what you should do to prepare.
source : Anaphylaxis Myths and Facts: Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment, and More