Severe Allergic Reactions Can Kill

Experts offer tips on spotting anaphylaxis -- and getting help

SATURDAY, June 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis mean that even a tiny morsel of food or an insect bite could prove deadly.

But experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) said better public awareness of the dangers could change all that.

An anaphylactic reaction occurs after a person eats a food to which they are allergic. Each year in the United States, several hundred people die from anaphylaxis, which can even strike people with no previously diagnosed food allergies.

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Itching, hives, flushing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, light-headedness, confusion or shock.
  • Rapid onset of symptoms in several different body systems.

If you, or someone else, experience symptoms of anaphylactic reaction, the AAAAI recommends the following actions:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • If a person has suffered from a previous anaphylactic reaction and carries adrenaline in either an EpiPen or Twinject, administer the medication first and then call 911.
  • Antihistamines should not be the sole treatment. Studies have shown that epinephrine should be the first medication administered during an anaphylactic reaction.
  • People who've suffered an anaphylactic reaction should seek medical attention. Research has shown that they should be under observation by medical personnel for several hours after the reaction in case they suffer a relapse.

Follow-up care is important. Many people who've had an anaphylactic reaction don't seek medical attention or may not even recognize that they've had a reaction.

"Deaths have unfortunately been reported of people who initially had only mild reactions to a food, such as hives, and then later ate the food again accidentally without having the benefit of an allergist advising them on an anaphylaxis action plan," Dr. Suzanne Teuber, chairwoman of the AAAAI's Adverse Reactions to Food Committee, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about food allergies.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Published on June 03, 2006

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