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Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis

Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis

There are many types of allergens – such as bee stings, medications, dust, or pollen – that can cause allergic reactions. Reactions to allergens can range from a mild case of hives, itching, or sneezing to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis. Allergic reaction to food is the most common cause of anaphylaxis. Some of the food allergens that account for the majority of food allergies are tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Individuals with both asthma and a food allergy are at greater risk for anaphylaxis.

Definition of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening type of allergic reaction that can stop your breathing or heart from beating. The reaction is an acute response to an allergen in which the body has developed a hypersensitivity. Anaphylaxis can occur within seconds or minutes, and even up to an hour or longer of being exposed to an allergen.

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis

An anaphylaxis reaction involves more than one system and can affect several areas of the body, including breathing and blood circulation. Common signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Skin reactions, such as hives and itching, flushed or pale skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constriction of airways and a swollen tongue or throat
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat or heart failure
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

Acute management of anaphylaxis

Do not wait to see if symptoms will go away. Seek emergency medical help immediately if you or someone you are around is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Administer an epinephrine auto-injector or EpiPen right away, if the person having the anaphylaxis reaction carries one. Epinephrine is a medication that can help reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Go to the emergency room even if the symptoms start to improve after the injection to ensure the symptoms do not recur.

Anaphylaxis prevention tips

  • Know the allergen or food that triggers the reaction.
  • Avoid the foods or allergens that lead to the reaction. Avoidance is the most effective way to prevent anaphylaxis.
  • Carefully read all food labels to ensure no triggers are present.
  • Have your Epipen with you wherever you go. Be prepared in case you come into contact with the trigger.
  • Immediately administer your Epipen if you suspect an anaphylaxis reaction. If an expired Epipen is the only one available, administer it anyways.
  • Consider wearing a medical identification bracelet with details on your allergies.
  • Inform family, friends, teachers, and co-workers of your condition, your triggers, and how to recognize anaphylactic symptoms.
  • See a specialist to help you manage your symptoms, conduct diagnostic tests, and review treatment options and ways to prevent anaphylaxis.

Diagnosing and long-term management of anaphylaxis can be complicated and will need a specialist in allergies and immunology. If you’re looking for a specialist to help you manage your allergy, contact Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Medical Group. The doctors at Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Medical Group will work to diagnose and develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and allergy triggers. Call our office at 805-658-9500 to set up an appointment. Let us help you prevent a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction today!