For some people, a peanut, a penicillin injection, or an insect bite may have the same effect as a devastating blow to the throat. Food allergies, medications and insect bites all have the risk of anaphylaxis, an infrequent but severe allergic reaction that causes symptoms of closing of the throat. This reaction usually occurs in a matter of minutes, after being chopped or having ingested substances that contained the compound causing the allergy.
The most dangerous and potentially fatal symptoms are respiratory difficulties, loss of consciousness and low blood pressure.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)
Anaphylaxis occurs within minutes after exposure, or in some cases, several hours later. The most common symptoms include:
• Chest and throat tightness • Hoarseness • Chest pain • Difficulty swallowing • Shortness of breath • Wheezing when breathing • Itching in the mouth or throat • Feeling dizzy • Poor circulation, resulting in a pale or bluish skin tone • Low blood pressure • Loss of consciousness
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the most dangerous and potentially fatal symptoms they are respiratory difficulties, loss of consciousness and low blood pressure. However, if you experience any of the other symptoms (especially after eating, taking medicines or getting stung) you should seek emergency medical attention; Do not expect the symptoms to get worse. To treat this type of severe reaction, you will need an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and you may have to stay in the emergency room to monitor your breathing and blood pressure.
Some people with a history of allergies may carry injectable epinephrine. Even if you administer the injection yourself, you should go to a hospital in search of treatment to make sure you do not suffer complications.
Food allergies are a very common cause of anaphylaxis. The worst causes are peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, common nuts and other nuts, as well as fish, shellfish, eggs, milk and preservatives, according to AAAAI allergists. The venom from flying insect bites, such as wasps and bees of various types, also poses a serious threat of severe allergic reactions. Terrestrial insects, such as fire ants, can also cause problems if their bites contain poison.
Drug allergies are also very common. While these reactions can occur with any drug, the AAAAI notes that antibiotics, such as penicillin, and anticonvulsant medications, are among the most dangerous.However, many other pharmaceutical products can produce automatic throat closing reactions. Examples of these include vaccines, pain medications, and even dyes used to create contrast in MRI procedures.
People especially sensitive to latex can also experience this type of severe reaction, especially when this material touches wet parts of the body, or during surgical or medical procedures.
Finally, the AAAAI warns about the rare and somewhat confusing role of exercise in causing a severe allergic reaction. Nothing may happen after exercising, so it is unpredictable. In some people, exercise-induced anaphylaxis has been linked to the combination of the consumption of certain foods with the subsequent exercise session.
Knowing what can trigger an allergic reaction in your body or in your loved ones, is an important information to know and share whenever necessary. Strictly avoiding detonating factors is vital for protection against anaphylaxis.
About the author
Boyan Hadjiev, MD (Doctor of Medicine, for its acronym in English), has practiced medicine for five years. He has a double degree in Internal Medicine (2003), and in Allergy and Immunology (2005).
Dr. Hadjiev graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in biology and an MD from the Cleveland Clinic-Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.