Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur due to various factors, including insect bites or exposure to certain foods. We discussed this topic with an expert to help you understand this condition and how to respond in an emergency.
What is an Allergy, and What are the Most Common Symptoms?
An allergy is an abnormal response of the immune system to specific substances called allergens, which can be found in the external environment (such as animal dander, dust mites, pollen, and mold), in the foods we eat, or in substances that come into contact with our skin (such as insect venom). The symptoms of an allergy can vary widely depending on the type of allergen and how it enters the body (inhalation, ingestion, or injection).
Some common manifestations of allergies include:
- Allergic airway diseases, such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and asthma.
- Urticaria/angioedema, which causes itchy welts on the skin, along with swelling of the skin or mucous membranes, such as the eyelids or lips.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, causing a rapid allergic reaction that can affect multiple organs and bodily systems at the same time. This reaction is triggered by specific antibodies called IgE and can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen.
Anaphylaxis can cause anaphylactic shock, a severe drop in blood pressure due to the release of substances like histamine that dilate blood vessels. In extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can lead to loss of consciousness or even death.
How Does Anaphylactic Shock Manifest Itself?
Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction that affects the entire body, particularly impacting the cardiovascular system.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock can include:
- A sudden drop in blood pressure potentially causing shock and loss of consciousness.
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing due to swelling in the airways.
- Hives or other skin reactions.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
What Should You Do in Case of Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency, and treatment must be immediately provided.
The life-saving drug in this situation is adrenaline, which must be injected into the muscle to quickly raise blood pressure. Pre-filled adrenaline pens are available for self-administration before medical help arrives. Other medications used to treat anaphylaxis include antihistamines, corticosteroids, bronchodilators, and supportive oxygen therapy, but these cannot replace adrenaline.
What are the Warning Signs of Anaphylactic Shock?
If you experience immediate symptoms after exposure to an allergen, such as hives, shortness of breath, swelling of the upper airways, diarrhea, or general malaise, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
You may be at risk of anaphylactic shock if you experience:
- Reactions that affect multiple organs or bodily systems (e.g., skin and gastrointestinal tract).
- Respiratory symptoms such as a feeling of constriction in the throat, difficulty swallowing, or voice changes.
- Loss of consciousness.
If you are at risk of severe allergy, it is essential to carry life-saving medication and be trained to recognize the symptoms of anaphylactic shock to administer treatment promptly if necessary.