January 2005 
Volume 35  Number 1
Pages 46 - 47
  PDF Version Available!


  • What is anaphylaxis?

  • How will my health care provider know I have anaphylaxis?

  • How is anaphylaxis treated?

  • What can I do to protect myself?


  • Figure. No caption a...

  • Follow the EpiPen in...

    What is anaphylaxis?

    Anaphylaxis (also called anaphylactic shock) is a sudden, severe allergic reaction. When you have this reaction, your face and throat swell up. If you don't get help fast, you could die.

    Anaphylaxis can be triggered by a severe allergy to certain foods (especially shellfish and peanuts), medication, insect stings, and latex. The reaction can start within minutes after you eat, touch, or even breathe in whatever you're allergic to, or the reaction could occur days later. If you have asthma, eczema, or hay fever, you're at greater risk for anaphylaxis than other people.

    Symptoms of anaphylaxis include anxiety, tingling or warm feelings, itching, the taste of metal in your mouth, swelling of your lips and tongue, hives or other skin rash, trouble catching your breath, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, dizziness, light-headedness, and chest pain.

    How will my health care provider know I have anaphylaxis?

    Your health care provider will diagnose anaphylaxis based on your symptoms and any previous allergic reactions you've had, even if they were less serious. He'll examine you, find out if you're allergic to anything, and ask you to describe what symptoms you're having and when they started. He'll also want to know what medications you're taking. But in an emergency, he'll treat you first and ask questions later.

    How is anaphylaxis treated?

    If your reaction is very severe, you may need treatment in a hospital emergency department (ED). You'll get an injection of epinephrine first, either into your skin or into ...

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