If you are allergic to a substance, your immune system overreacts to this allergen by releasing chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. Typically, these bothersome symptoms occur in one location of the body. However, some people are susceptible to a much more serious anaphylactic reaction. This reaction typically affects more than one part of the body at the same time.

Symptoms

Allergic reactions present in a number of ways. The sites affected are typically the mouth, throat, skin, gut, lung and heart with some expression of the following symptoms:

  • Itching

  • Swelling of lips or tongue

  • Throat tightness

  • Throat closure

  • Hoarseness

  • Hives 

  • Skin redness

  • Swelling

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Cramps

  • Shortness of breath

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Weak pulse

  • Dizziness

  • Passing out

While only a few of these symptoms may be present, some symptoms can be life-threatening. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction, use your self-injectable epinephrine and call 911 immediately. Do not take an antihistamine or wait to see if symptoms get better.

Treatment and management

Developing an action plan is essential when it comes to managing allergies and preventing mild to severe reactions. Some things to consider when creating your plan include:

  1. Eyes open. Be able to recognize symptoms.

  2. Stay focused. Know and avoid your triggers.

  3. Strategize. Have an emergency action plan and keep it on file at work, school or other places where others may need to recognize your symptoms and provide treatment.  

  4. Pack up. Carry self-injectable epinephrine at all times if you are at risk of anaphylaxis.

  5. Don’t hesitate. Inject epinephrine promptly if you have an allergic reaction and call 911.

  6. Spread awareness. Train family and friends to help you in an emergency.

Identifying and medicating

Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment, including an injection of epinephrine and a trip to a hospital emergency room. If it is not treated properly, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Certain people are more at risk of anaphylaxis. If you have allergies or asthma and have a family history of anaphylaxis, your risk is higher. If you have experienced anaphylaxis, your risk of having another anaphylactic reaction is also increased.

Accurate diagnosis and successful management of allergies is essential. An allergist or immunologist has specialized training and experience to diagnose the problem and help you develop a plan to protect you in the future.