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Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening type of allergic reaction. The incidence of anaphylaxis has been rising, estimated to affect around 3.5 in every 100,000 people in a year in Hong Kong. Anaphylaxis can occur in anyone at any time. Healthy Matters will provide you with all the information about the definition, causes, symptoms, and treatment of anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is defined as a potentially fatal, severe, and systemic allergic reaction that occurs suddenly after contact with an allergy-causing substance. Normally, if you are allergic to a substance, the immune system overreacts to this allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, these symptoms typically occur in one location of the body. However, some people are more susceptible to a much more serious anaphylactic reaction, and the immune system overreacts to the allergen and affects more than one part of the body at the same time, resulting in anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is the result of the body’s natural defence system (immune system) overreacting to a trigger. The triggers vary between individuals and are not always the same.
Common anaphylaxis triggers include:
In some cases, there may be no obvious trigger, known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis usually develops suddenly and deteriorates very quickly, symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency diagnosed mainly based on clinical presentation, to avoid delay in medical treatment.
After the initial stabilization and management, doctors will ask more about what might have caused the condition and perform more tests to identify allergens that caused anaphylaxis.
The following test may be recommended to help confirm the diagnosis:
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment, it is life-threatening if not treated quickly.
If someone has symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should:
You can follow these steps yourself if you can while having an anaphylactic reaction. People who have had an anaphylactic reaction are at risk for future reactions, therefore it’s important to carry an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) if you are at risk.
You may be prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) if you have an ongoing risk of developing anaphylaxis. If so, it’s important to remember the following:
Even if you feel better after the administration of an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI), you will need to go to the hospital for observation as the symptoms can occasionally return shortly within a few hours after appropriate treatment, even with no additional exposure to the allergen. This is known as biphasic anaphylaxis.
Treatment while in the hospital includes:
The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to stay away from the triggers. The following can help reduce the risk of having anaphylaxis:
Common anaphylaxis triggers include food (e.g. nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish); medications (e.g. antibiotics, anti-epileptic medications, NSAIDs); contrast agents, insect stings, latex, and general anesthetic.
Anaphylaxis develops rapidly, symptoms usually begin within minutes of exposure to a trigger substance, reaching peak severity within 5 to 30 minutes. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency with the potential to become life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
In some cases, the symptoms of anaphylaxis can be mild and may go away on their own. However, most anaphylactic reactions will require medical treatment as it is difficult to predict how quickly the symptoms will get worse. It is important to seek urgent medical help if in doubt.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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