What is Anaphylaxis?

October 8, 2023

What is Anaphylaxis?
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What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a generalised acute allergic reaction that can be lethal and usually happens fast. The problem has an origin manifested following exposures to particular allergens of foodstuffs, drugs, insect stings, and rubber products. As a result, the immune system becomes hyper-responsive due to the production of chemicals such as histamines, which cause a rapid fall in blood pressure and narrow the airways. They comprise shortness of breath together with a  fast or slow pulse and some skin diseases such as rashes or swellings with nausea and vomiting. Early medication should be administered immediately to prevent fatalities or severe side effects.

Table of contents:

  • What is anaphylaxis?
  • Why Do People Get Anaphylaxis?
  • Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
  • Risk Factors
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment and Management of Anaphylaxis
  • Conclusion 

Why Do People Get Anaphylaxis?

It is a severe and possibly fatal form of allergy. In susceptible people, several triggers may set off this intense immune reaction. Here are some common reasons why people might experience anaphylaxis:

  • Allergens: This reaction occurs due to exposure to some allergens, such as foods, insect stings, medicines, or latex.
  • Immunological Sensitivity: People with an exaggerated immune response, especially those with a tendency towards allergies and asthma, are more likely to experience anaphylaxis.
  • Cross-Reactivity: When the body’s immune system starts treating a harmless substance as the enemy, it is termed cross-reaction. For instance, this happens with food allergies, where the protein in one food will be similar to that in another, inducing allergic reactions.
  • Previous History: An individual who has suffered an anaphylactic response from an earlier allergen encounter is at risk of experiencing more vigorous reactions if exposed to the same antigen again.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some people are naturally more prone to developing anaphylaxis than others, and genetics could also be one of the contributing factors.

This entails having the ability to understand the triggers, which forms the basis for the effective prevention and control of anaphylactic reactions. Individuals at risk of asthma should know what can provoke asthma symptoms and how to prevent them.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • Skin Reactions

Skin findings like hives, pruritis, erythema, pallor, or oedema (mainly facial or periorbital) are encountered.

  • Respiratory Issues

Respiratory signs are usually severe and present as dyspnea, wheezing, cough, or tightness in the chest. Sometimes, it will cause problems such as difficulty breathing and feeling like a lump in the throat (Globus sensation).

  • Cardiovascular Changes

A sudden drop in pressure causes dizziness, light-heartedness or fainting, which leads to anaphylaxis. Another symptom that is observed is a fast or slow pulse. While in acute condition, cardiac arrest may happen.

  • Gastrointestinal Distress

Such gastrointestinal symptoms as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea may occur. The presence of these symptoms usually adds to the suffering during the entire anaphylactic episode.

  • Mental Changes

It is usually severe and can lead to a feeling of “about to die” or anxiety in an individual suffering from anaphylaxis. The person could get confused, feel disoriented and even experience confusion because of those changes that are going on within the body.

It is important to note these signs and be quick to see a health professional in case of any suspicion on the part of anaphylaxis. Timely administration of epinephrine and other supportive therapy has been found to enhance the prognosis and decrease grave results greatly. Those at risk of anaphylaxis should also carry an auto-injector epinephrine and have an emergency action plan at their disposal.

Risk Factors

This is an acute and life-threatening form of allergy that must be treated soon. Although it happens with those individuals, some risk factors make one more likely to experience an anaphylactic reaction. Knowledge about these risk factors is important for early detection and avoidance. Here are some significant risk factors associated with anaphylaxis:

  1. History of Allergies: Those at risk include people who have undergone a history of sensitivity for some of these things, like certain foods, drugs, insects, and latex. Anaphylaxis results from allergic exacerbations that have been historically associated with moderate to severe reactions.
  2. Previous Anaphylactic Episode: It is crucial to note that people who suffer from a previous episode of an anaphylactic experience more than once are highly prone to having another attack in future. Such persons should also remain careful enough not to trigger another attack and have a ready emergency plan.
  3. Asthma: People with comorbid asthma, especially uncontrolled asthma, are at greater risk of experiencing anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may occur due to an overlap in asthma and allergy as some of the triggers may cause asthmatic response as well.
  4. Multiple Allergies: People who have multiple allergies, such as those who are allergic to different types of allergens, are more likely to develop anaphylaxis because they are exposed to a wide range of potential triggers. 
  5. Age and Genetics: Although anaphylaxis may affect all ages, it may be more prevalent in children and young adults, most likely due to high levels of allergen exposure. An individual can also be at risk for allergic reactions and anaphylaxis if other members of their family had similar conditions in the past.
  6. Underlying Health Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as mastocytosis, which is a rare condition that involves excessive build-up of mast cells in the body, have been known to put some people at an increased risk of developing anaphylaxis. Other factors which may enhance susceptibility include diseases associated with compromised immunity.
  7. Exposure to Allergens: People may be susceptible to allergens from occupational exposures that involve certain chemicals, latex, or specific food products, increasing their probability of anaphylaxis, especially when they are repeated.


  • Patient History: Detailed patient history is the starting point in diagnosing anaphylaxis. The healthcare provider will ask questions related to the patient’s recent contact with possible allergens, earlier incidents of allergy occurrences, and also history of allergies among any family members.
  • Clinical Examination: Physical exam, including a thorough physical exam is important for the assessment of the symptoms accompanying anaphylaxis. Upon this, the healthcare provider looks out for some physical markers like skin reactions such as wheezing, hives, flushing, or swelling of different parts, depending on where the allergic substance was injected.
  • Allergy Testing: An allergic test that could identify the allergens that cause anaphylaxis would be helpful. The suspected trigger may be identified using skin prick tests, blood tests such as specific IgE, and other specialised tests based on the presumed cause. The tests also establish the presence of particular antibodies against specific allergens in the blood.
  • Tryptase Levels: Tryptase is released during anaphylactic reactions and is a sign of mast cell activation. The serum tryptase is measured at specific times after the first symptom presentation; it gives the most support for anaphylaxis diagnosis compared to other diseases having similar symptoms.
  • Additional Tests: Some further tests may be required to exclude alternative etiologies or problems. For example, these may comprise of CBC, blood chemistries, ECGs, and chest X-rays as a way of looking into the effect of anaphylaxis within the body and identifying possible complications associated with it.

An early, accurate diagnosis is needed for quick and effective management of anaphylaxis to reduce recurrences and minimise severe events. Working closely with an allergy/immunology specialist is essential for providing an accurate diagnosis and developing a personalized management plan.

Treatment and Management of Anaphylaxis

Management and treatment of anaphylaxis are based on several options, which are supposed to be in a timely manner to neutralize this lethal condition. It is important to act fast so that the worsening of symptoms and death can be prevented. The following steps are typically involved in the treatment and management of anaphylaxis:

  • Epinephrine Administration: Epinephrine can be used to treat anaphylaxis in the first place. by the blood vessels, relaxes the muscles of the airways, and decreases hives and swellings. It reverses the symptom. Health professionals typically require prescriptions for individuals experiencing a high rate of anaphylaxis who are at risk.
  • Call for Emergency Medical Assistance: Although giving epinephrine is crucial and necessary, seeking immediate medical attention is just as essential. This reaction occurs quickly and hence requires hospitalization for continuous surveillance and subsequent management.
  • Maintaining Airway and Breathing: It is crucial to make sure there is a clear path for airflow in and out of lungs in the case of the affected. If breathing is compromised, for instance, emergency personnel may provide assistance that includes intubation and breathing tubes to assist in breathing.
  • Medications for Symptom Relief: For more intense relief from allergic reactions accompanied by swelling or infiltrations, an antihistamine taken with a corticosteroid is recommended to avoid a recurrence of the conditions. These drugs could be used for treating peeling off of skin, among other things like irritation, itching, and swellings.
  • Monitoring and Observation: The tracking of the individual’s response to the treatment requires monitoring the vital signs, for instance, blood pressure, pulse rate, and blood oxygen saturation. Healthcare providers are constantly monitoring for any signs of delayed or late-recurring symptoms.
  • Prevention of Recurrence: Healthcare providers help patients identify the trigger factors after a bout of anaphylaxis and advise on the best precautions that can be taken to prevent them. Educating on allergen avoidance, carrying emergency medications, and establishing an action program to counter a possible further allergic reaction
  • Follow-Up Care: People suffering from anaphylaxis may come for a check-up on general health and review management plans and queries. The follow-up provides such continued support and enlightens people about their health status and associated therapies that involve managing such a disorder.

Essentially, the therapy for anaphylactoid shock, including its prompt management, depends on a number of measures taken simultaneously, ranging from injecting epinephrine in time, turning to hospital for aid, up to preventions that diminish the probability of further severe allergic reactions. People at risk for anaphylaxis must be alert, informed, and ready to act when faced with a potential trigger.


Anaphylaxis refers to the most severe allergic reaction, which can be lethal. Such triggers include food, drugs, insects, On time, biological management reduces the risk of serious consequences. This is a very important condition that should be handled with care. In order to manage criticism, recognise the symptoms. You will also need an emergency action plan, as well as media-weldable medical plans that can be avoided, and Clotoy patients will prevent an attack. This will help such patients lead a good life; specialists will be required to develop personal management plans for each person in relation to their specific requirements. Being aware will go a long way toward protecting you from the risks that exist. Anaphylaxis is one of them; hence, you should always be aware to avoid any form of danger.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Anaesthesia & Critical Care Team

Anaesthesia & Critical Care Team

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