Anaphylaxis can be defined as a severe and sudden reaction that occurs as a result of someone who suffers from allergies being exposed to a particular allergen.
But do we truly understand the severity of anaphylaxis and it’s potentially fatal results?
The media has recently reported various tragic stories involving anaphylaxis that has highlighted how serious allergic reactions can be; the most recent being involving large consumer chain ‘Pret A Manger’ whereby not all of the ingredients and potential allergens were highlighted and as a result someone sadly died. There have also been similar instances on aeroplanes in recent years.
Despite significant media coverage of the ‘Pret A Manger’ incident, a fact that many are still unaware of is the occurrence of biphasic anaphylaxis; this secondary reaction is a recurrence after anaphylaxis and after appropriate treatment is given to the initial anaphylactic reaction, this can happen with no additional exposure to the allergen and can occur anywhere from 1-72 hours after the initial reaction but commonly between 8 and 10 hours.
An allergic reaction is the immune system’s way of reacting inappropriately to a threat; a food or substance, this causes histamines to be released from cells in a person’s blood and tissues; resulting in swelling of the lips, mouth and lower airway which can cause breathing difficulties.
In terms of onset, reactions usually occur within in minutes, but they can however occur up to 2-3 hours later and increase in severity rapidly.
It is important to note that not all anaphylaxis causes are related to food, non-food related causes can include wasp and bee stings, penicllin or latex to name but a few.
In some very rare instances, there is no actual cause identified and this is called ‘idiopathic anaphylaxis’.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis are often referred to as ABC symptoms; Airway, Breathing and Conciousness/Circulation.
Anaphylaxis can result in a significant fall in blood pressure which is often referred to as ‘anaphylactic shock.; if a person becomes floppy and weak this can lead to collapse and as a result they slip into unconsciousness, in some incredibly severe cases, even resulting in death.
Society as a whole seems to underestimate the potentially fatal dangers of anaphylaxis; when on aircrafts or at public events where service announcements informs us that somebody in the vicinity has a severe allergy, we must heed these warnings and avoid exposing them to these foods or substances.
Reactions will differ in severity, as will triggers, some sufferers will have to actively ingest a substance in order to trigger a reaction, whereas other sufferers may begin to react as soon as they are exposed to an airborne trigger and so we must not underestimate the fatal implications anaphylaxis can have.
If you suspect someone is going into anaphylactic shock in your presence, seek medical help immediately. Time is of the essence for anaphylaxis and the person will need treating; either with their own epi-pen or other medications as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of fatality.
If you would like more information on anaphylaxis, please visit the following websites: