Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. It is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate recognition and intervention. It can be defined as any acute onset illness or hypotension or bronchospasm or upper airway obstruction with typical skin features like urticarial rash or erythema or flushing, and/or angioedema. It also involves respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal symptoms. Anaphylaxis is caused when a person is exposed to something they are allergic to and the body a reaction as a result of which, chemical substances are released by the body’s immune system. These substances flood the body and cause a critical condition called anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis symptoms occur suddenly and can progress at a rapid pace. The early symptoms of anaphylaxis are mild, such as a runny nose, a skin rash or a sudden strange feeling. These symptoms can worsen and quickly lead to more serious problems. These include Trouble breathing, swelling or hives, tightness of the throat which causes hoarse voice, a feeling of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea. People also experience symptoms like fainting and dizziness. Their blood pressure falls suddenly and heart beat rate goes higher. Because of this, sometimes due to severity, people also face cardiac arrest.
Anaphylaxis is an emergency condition and patients should be given immediate treatment. Patient should be laid flat or made to sit. The first step for treating anaphylactic shock will be injecting epinephrine (adrenaline) immediately. This can reduce the severity of the allergic reaction and also remove the allergen to some extent. Doctors may give steroids and cortisone and antihistamines intravenously if allergens are high and symptoms do not fade away after epinephrine injection. These additional drugs help to reduce the inflammation in the air passages, improving the ability to breathe. Apart from this, use of beta-agonists such as albuterol also make breathing easier.
In order to diagnose anaphylaxis, doctors first inquire about the personal medical history of the patient. He/she will find out the allergens and other causes the patient is allergic to. These will include food, drugs, insects or animals, dust etc. Blood test can also be done to measure the amount of a certain enzyme (tryptase) that can be elevated up to three hours after anaphylaxis.
Treatment needs to be prompt and appropriate for anaphylaxis. This is solely because this is a severe and life threatening disorder. The patient is given an injection of epinephrine or adrenaline that helps to reduce symptoms of allergy and control the allergen present in the body from reacting. This provides temporary relief to the patient. In case of breathing disturbances, that is slowing down of breathing or heart beat issues, patients are given CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This includes 18 beats per 30 minutes to reactivate proper beats. Other medicines like intravenous (IV) antihistamines and cortisone is provided to reduce inflammation of the air passages and improve breathing. Also, a beta-agonist (such as albuterol) can help to relieve breathing symptoms. If insect stings trigger the anaphylactic reaction, the treatment is long term. A series of allergy shots (immunotherapy) may reduce the body's allergic response and prevent a severe reaction in the future. It is always best to be cautious and avoid the allergen.
Anaphylaxis is a severe condition and often poses life threat, which is why people should seek immediate medical assistance and care even for any mild signs or symptoms of allergy. People prone to allergies, like peanut, shell fish, tree nuts etc. should always carry with them at least one dose of epinephrine. Even if the symptoms lower after injecting, people should visit a doctor to seek assistance.
The first immediate treatment for anaphylaxis is injecting a dose of epinephrine or adrenaline. Unfortunately, use of adrenaline poses side effects on individuals. These side effects include anxiety, nervousness, headache, fear, palpitations, sweating, nausea and vomiting, pale skin, etc. Patients may face severe adverse conditions like dangerously high blood pressure with blurred vision and uneven heartbeat.
Anaphylaxis is severe and thus, people who have already suffered once, should be extra cautious not to let it occur again. Symptoms of second anaphylactic shock can be more severe than the first one and can stop heartbeat and breathing. The best post treatment guideline is to take measures to prevent it from recurring. People should wear masks or fully covered clothes to prevent allergens. Being allergic to food substances will require the person to be cautious about the ingredients before eating anything. They should avoid the cause of the allergic reaction as best as possible to avoid triggering reaction and secretion of chemical substances in the body. Carrying medical kit with adrenaline injection is a must for people once detected and treated with anaphylaxis.
Most people will take two or three days to recover from anaphylactic shock after treatment. The White blood cell count usually remain low and patients feel quite unwell and drained for up to a week.
Treatment of anaphylaxis can cost around Rs. 100- Rs. 1000. Epinephrine injections along with other medicines like antihistamines and steroids incur the cost for the treatment of anaphylaxis.
Results of each individual treatment is permanent. That is, anaphylaxis can be treated and cured with proper medicinal drugs. These drugs can restrict the allergens from causing further reactions in the body. They also act to kill the allergens and regulate proper heartbeat and respiratory rhythms. But, if the patient is again exposed to allergens, then reactions can be triggered in the body once again and anaphylactic shock can occur. So, in order to maintain the treatment for a long time, people need to be cautious enough to avoid triggering reactions in the body again.
Although alternative treatments or home remedies are not recommended for anaphylactic shock, it can help prevent further anaphylaxis in the patient. The risk of recurrence can be lowered to a great extent by the use of quercetin supplements daily. It is a type of plant product that helps to protect a person from severe allergic reactions. Also, vitamin C rich foods help to cope up faster with allergic reactions.