What Everyone Should Know About Anaphylaxis: Ten Facts

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The more things are repeated, the more likely they will become part of what we call “common knowledge,” or things that most people know.

If you or a family member has a food allergy, the realities of anaphylaxis may already be known to you. However, these potentially life-saving facts are far from common knowledge so they bear repeating—and need to be shared.

Anaphylaxis: Ten Facts

These ten facts were originally published last May on Anaphylaxis Awareness Day by Food Allergy Research & Education.

  1. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. It is rapid in onset and may cause death. It should always be regarded as a medical emergency.
  2. During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms may occur on several body areas and can threaten blood circulation and breathing.
  3. The most common cause of anaphylaxis is food allergy, but several other allergens (e.g., insect stings, latex, medications) are also potential triggers.
  4. Though any individual with a food allergy can experience anaphylaxis, the foods that most commonly cause severe reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish.
  5. Those with both a food allergy and asthma have a greater risk of anaphylaxis.
  6. Epinephrine (adrenaline) is a medication that reverses the life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis. Epinephrine is acquired by prescription and comes in an auto-injector. Should an anaphylactic reaction occur, immediately give epinephrine via auto-injector, and call 911.
  7. The most common reason stated for not giving epinephrine is the use of antihistamines instead. This puts the individual at increased risk of developing life-threatening symptoms.
  8. Ephinephrine is considered an extremely safe medicine. Currently, there are three types of epinephrine auto-injectors available in the U.S. (see link below)
  9. People can have life-threatening reactions to a problem food even if they never had a previous severe reaction. Past reactions are not predictors of future ones.
  10. Those at greatest risk for food-triggered fatal reactions are adolescents/young adults, people with asthma, and individuals with known food allergies plus a history of anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives with itching, flushed or pale skin, weak and rapid pulse, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, constriction of the airways, swollen tongue or throat, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

Remember, if you are at risk for anaphylaxis, keep your prescriptions up-to-date, always have your medication with you, and wear medical identification.

Sources: Types of auto-injectors in the U.S.; Mayo Clinic Photo credit: ItzaFineDay

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