Anaphylaxis is a severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergic reaction. It affects multiple organs, including the heart and lungs.
It is important to seek medical care right away if you have symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Substances that cause anaphylaxis are often called allergens or triggers. Common triggers include:
Some triggers, like dyes used in x-ray procedures, can cause a reaction similar to anaphylaxis.
These factors increase your chance of developing anaphylaxis. Anyone can have anaphylaxis. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
The symptoms of anaphylaxis usually occur within minutes after exposure to an allergen, but can occur hours later. Symptoms may be mild or very severe, including death. They include:
The doctor will suspect anaphylaxis if you have symptoms and have been exposed to a likely allergen. It is also important to follow up with a doctor who specializes in allergies (allergist/immunologist). The diagnosis of allergy with a risk of anaphylactic reactions is made based on the patient’s history. It is confirmed with skin tests and sometimes blood tests done by allergy specialists.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment, including:
NOTE: If you receive emergency epinephrine, you should go to the emergency room right away, even if your symptoms have gone away.
If you are diagnosed with anaphylaxis, follow your doctor's instructions.
Avoiding substances that trigger anaphylaxis is the best prevention. In addition:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Purvee S. Shah, MD
Last Updated: 11/2/2012
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