What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis Video from YouTube

An “allergy attack” or allergic reaction can range in severity from an itchy nose to a severe allergic reaction, called “anaphylaxis” which can result in death. An allergic reaction occurs when someone who is allergic to a particularly protein, because he or she has IgE to it in their immune system from previous exposure, is reexposed resulting in release of histamine and other substances.

The severity of the reaction depends on the amount and extent to which histamine is released into the body. A highly peanut allergic person who eats peanuts or someone allergic to bee stings who is stung by a bee can, within a few minutes of exposure, release large amounts of histamine into his skin, lungs, circulatory system, and gastrointestinal tract resulting in hives, throat swelling, airway spasms, dizziness, vomiting, and abdominal spasms, which if untreated, causes generalized organ collapse and death.

A person experiencing anaphylaxis requires emergency medical treatment involving injection of epinephrine.

Source:Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Link: Epipen.com

14 thoughts on “What is Anaphylaxis?

  1. It would be nice to see a post about the inability of ER physicians to recognize and treat anaphylaxis – especially if there are no hives or external swelling.

    Unfortunately, I’m part of the small percentage that of people that has her circulatory system shut down – you know, sudden drop in blood pressure, vomiting, flushing – and have been told by ER physicians that this was not allergy. (My allergist, GP, and other specialists disagreed.) When I finally got the proper treatment (epinephrine, H1 and H2 inhibitors) I was much, much better. My allergist believes the reason I regained some consciousness (barely) and was (somewhat) responsive was because I take an H1 inhibitor (Claritin-D) every day.

    This, unfortunately, happens despite wearing a medic alert bracelet, despite telling them to call my allergist or even my GP. This is not isolated. This is all too common and on every allergy listserv, forum, etc. that I participate in there are others with similar stories. And, all too often some ER physician states that they know better than the allergist!




  2. Hi MLO,
    There is a program launched by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American College of Emergency Physicians aimed to address this problem, it’s called the “BE SAFE” project and you can access details at this web address:

    It is unfortunately true that anaphylaxis is misdiagnosed and mistreated in many ERs. I would take it as a challenge in your community to raise awareness about anaphylaxis among the general public and the medical community. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis network (http://www.foodallergy.org/anaphylaxis/resources.html) has many educational resources that you can utilize to promote awareness in your community.
    As for the ER, you may have to persuade your local allergists to give talks to the ER staff to increase education regarding this important problem.


  3. It seems that Beth (see comment above) had an anaphylactic reaction to venom stings. What I find curious about the story is that I’m not sure if EMS or the ER gave her epinephrine (or maybe she just doesn’t remember) and whether they discharged her with an Epi-pen.
    It is vital that venom sting allergic patients see an allergist for testing and to start venom immunotherapy to prevent future anaphylactic episodes. I refer you to the AAAAI tips on insect sting allergy:


  4. I had an “anaphylactic shock” when i was 10, which was 8 years ago. Ever since I have had no problems even after being in the same area that I had the episode. I know I am not alergic to bee stings or wasp stings or even any sort of food. What else could it be? And could I have been misdiagnosed with “anaphylaxis”? If so what else could it be?


  5. What were the symptoms of your reaction and what were the circumstances surrounding it? Did you have itching, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness? Did you eat any food or take any medication before the episode? Usually just being in a specific location does not cause allergic reactions.


  6. My symptoms were, trouble breathing and hives but im not allergic to any foods, but I do have hayfever. No medication other than normal hayfever medication (piriton) which I still use.
    Any ideas?


  7. Trouble breathing and hives occurring together associated with a trigger can be considered an anaphylactic reaction. What were the circumstances surrounding your episode?
    You should see an allergist to throroughly evaluate your possible triggers. The only other thing I can suggest is to carry an Epi-pen.


  8. The circumstaces were just roaming around as a kid playing in the trees and things. Never had anything like it before or since. Could it be a miss-diagnosis of anaphylaxia ?


  9. Hard to tell. Try and get your medical records for that episode so an allergist can review it. It is difficult to diagnose anything without examining the patient at the time of the incident and without adequate history and documentation.
    Anyone who tells you different is bogus.


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