How to Spot the Stages of Anaphylaxis
Many allergy sufferers experience mild symptoms, such as itchy eyes, which are bothersome but usually harmless. But some allergic reactions called anaphylaxis can be so severe that they are life-threatening. Anyone with an allergy can experience anaphylaxis. However, some people with other underlying medical conditions, such as allergic asthma, may be even more likely to have a severe reaction, which means having anaphylaxis is especially important for them. on their radar.
Normally, your immune system attacks potentially harmful substances like viruses and bacteria to keep you healthy, according to the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). In people with allergies, the immune system attacks a benign substance, such as food or tree pollen. The same basic process occurs during anaphylaxis, except the reaction and symptoms are more severe1 and affect the whole body rather than an isolated area, such as the upper respiratory system.
About 1 in 50 people in the United States have experienced anaphylaxis, but some experts believe the rate is even higher, according to the American Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AFA). You can’t predict when you or someone you love may have a very serious allergic reaction, but you can identify anaphylaxis and react quickly if you ever need to.
Here’s what happens during anaphylaxis:
First, you are exposed to an allergen.
Allergens are basically substances that trigger an allergic reaction in your body. They can be ingested, touched, injected or inhaled, depending on the AFOA. Allergens vary from person to person, but food is one of the main causes of anaphylaxis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Common culprits include:
- Cow milk
- Many types of nuts, including peanuts, cashews, and walnuts
- Seafood like shrimp, lobster and clams
- Soy, found in many foods like edamame, ice cream, and tempeh
- Wheat, a common ingredient in bread, cereals and pasta
Medications (most commonly injection medications), bee and wasp insect venom, and latex can also trigger anaphylaxis, according to Mayo Clinic. Very rarely, some people experience anaphylaxis during strenuous exercise, such as running, for unknown reasons, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Your body reacts, triggering a wave of symptoms.
Once your immune system detects that you have been exposed to an allergen, it launches an attack, releasing inflammatory chemicals such as histamine to fight off the perceived invader.
“Anaphylactic symptoms occur because your immune system releases several chemicals in large amounts after exposure to the allergen,” Thanai Pongdee, MDan immunologist from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says SELF.
An anaphylactic reaction usually occurs within minutes or seconds of exposure to an allergen, according to the Mayo Clinic. But anaphylaxis can also be delayed for hours, which can make it a bit harder to pinpoint the potential trigger.