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When Anaphylaxis Looks Like Asthma

What Are The Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis

What Asthma Looks and Feels Like

Symptoms usually involve more than one organ system , such as the skin or mouth, the lungs, the heart and the gut. Some symptoms include:

  • Skin rashes, itching or hives
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Shortness of breath, trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Stomach pain, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Uterine cramps
  • Feeling like something awful is about to happen

Ask your doctor for a complete list of symptoms and an anaphylaxis action plan. Anaphylaxis must be treated right away to provide the best chance for improvement and prevent serious, potentially life-threatening complications.

Anaphylaxis Posing As Asthma

Allergy & Asthma TodayAllergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmaticsprevious posts Instead of missing the “forest for the trees”, we couldn’t see the “anaphylaxis for the asthma”.“If patients with a food allergy and asthma have a sudden onset of severe asthma symptoms following food ingestion, they should presume that they had an accidental ingestion of their food allergen and immediately use their epinephrine.”expect

Who Is At Risk For Anaphylaxis

  • People who have experienced anaphylaxis before
  • People with allergies to foods, insect stings, medicine and other triggers

If you are at-risk:

  • Keep your epinephrine auto-injectors on-hand at all times and be ready to use them if an emergency occurs.
  • Talk with your doctor about your triggers and your symptoms. Your doctor may tell you to see an allergist. An allergist can help you identify your allergies and learn to manage your risk of severe reactions.
  • Ask your doctor for an anaphylaxis action plan. This will help you know what to do if you experience anaphylaxis.

Medical Review October 2015, updated February 2017.

Allergy Symptoms

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If Your Child Has Severe Allergies

Suggestions for parents include:

  • Educate your child, taking their age and level of understanding into account. If your child has food allergy, stress the importance of only accepting food from trusted adults such as parents or caregivers, never sharing food and washing hands before and after eating.
  • Advise the childcare service, kindergarten, school and other carers of your childs condition.
  • Give the organisation a current copy of your childs ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis, which includes a recent photograph of your child.
  • Make sure you provide an in-date adrenaline autoinjector.
  • Complete free online anaphylaxis training.

When Should I Use My Epinephrine Injector

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If you think youre having an anaphylactic reaction, dont wait to use your injector. And dont take an antihistamine instead to see if that helps. Use your injector immediately. Your life depends on taking quick action. You also need to call 911 or get to a hospital. Even after you inject yourself, you need medical evaluation and treatment.

If youre not sure youre having an anaphylactic reaction, its better to inject yourself. The risk of an unnecessary injection is less than the risk of not getting the medicine in time.

If you inject yourself without needing to, you may increase your blood pressure and heartbeat for a few hours. Call your provider or get medical help if that happens.

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Signs Of Anaphylactic Shock

  • Using neck muscles to take breaths

Allergen Exposure as a Sign

It’s easier to identify the signs and symptoms of anaphylactic shock if there is a known allergen exposure. For instance, those with allergies to bee stings will usually know they’ve been stung. Anyone who’s had allergic reactions in the past should be aware of any symptoms, even if no allergen exposure has been identified. For example, people with food allergies are more likely to have anaphylaxis while eating even when they don’t think they’re eating the food they are allergic to.

If someone is wearing medical alert jewelry that indicates an allergy, that can help identify the cause of the symptoms.

Anaphylaxis: An Overwhelming Allergic Reaction

Swift action is needed to short-circuit potentially deadly symptoms.

Sarah Lyman had no reason to worry when her husband John left the house for a jog after lunch: he looked his usual healthy self. Twenty minutes later, she got word that he had collapsed by the side of the road fighting for breath. At the hospital, she learned that the cause was anaphylaxis , likely brought on by the lobster salad they’d eaten for lunch. Fortunately, John was treated in time and survived. That he was allergic to shellfish was news to him.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction that can develop within an hour and sometimes within minutes or even seconds after exposure to an allergen, a substance to which an individual’s immune system has become sensitized. Many allergens can touch off anaphylaxis, including foods, medications, and insect stings . In John Lyman’s case, his postprandial jog likely played a role: anaphylaxis is occasionally triggered by aerobic activity like jogging especially after ingesting allergenic foods or medications. Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

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What Is An Allergy

An allergy is an adverse reaction from an immune response to something that contacts the body, is inhaled, or ingested. The reactions include sneezing, wheezing, cough, itching, skin rashes, stomach pain, diarrhea, or even a fall in blood pressure, which can cause dizziness or passing out. With proper management and education, people with allergies can lead healthy, normal lives.

What Are Common Causes Of Anaphylaxis

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According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the most common causes of anaphylaxis are foods, insect stings, medications, and latex. Some examples are as follows :

  • Food: peanuts, tree nuts , fish, shellfish, cows milk, eggs

  • Latex: found in disposable gloves, intravenous tubes, syringes, adhesive tapes, catheters

  • Medications: penicillin, aspirin, muscle relaxants, anesthesia

  • Insectstings: bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, fire ants

  • Contrast for medical imaging purposes

  • Exercise: triggered by physical activity

  • Idiopathic: meaning the cause is never identified

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What Happens In An Anaphylactic Reaction

An allergy is a response by the body’s immune system to something that is not necessarily harmful in itself. Certain people are sensitive to this allergen and have a reaction when exposed to it.

During an allergic reaction, a complex series of events occurs within the body. These events are co-ordinated by the immune system. Sometimes the immune system ‘goes into overdrive’. If this happens, the body can lose control of its vital functions, with catastrophic results. Such a severe reaction can cause death. This is anaphylaxis.

On a more detailed level, changes happen within the walls of capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. The capillaries become leaky, and fluid leaks from the blood into the tissues . So much fluid is lost from the blood system, that blood pressure falls. As the blood pressure drops, there is a lack of blood to the major organs. This is known as shock – and in this case is anaphylactic shock.

Classic early symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling faint – due to dropping of your blood pressure.
  • A sense of impending doom.
  • A fast heart rate or the sensation of a ‘thumping’ heart as your heart tries to pump faster to maintain your blood pressure.
  • Symptoms involving the gut . These include feeling sick , being sick and tummy pain.

Classic advancing symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

Sign #: Rashes And Hives

Its true that rashes and hives are not uncommon to more minor allergic reactions. However, if you are experiencing widespread rashes or hives–or if those outbreaks are broadly, you will likely want to seek medical attention.

When they are widespread or seemingly random, rashes and hives can be an indication that your immune system is flooding your body indiscriminately with chemicals–which in turn causes anaphylaxis.

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Anaphylaxis And Deadly Asthma Attacks: What You Need To Know

  • Reactions 0 reactions

If you have asthma, it’s important to recognize that it could kill you. This is true whether you have mild intermittent asthma like me or severe, poorly-controlled asthma. In fact, in the U.S., 10 people every day die from asthma. Many of these deaths could have been avoided with proper treatment and care. In adults, who are 4 times more likely to die from asthma than kids, women and African-Americans are most at risk for dying.

These are some pretty sobering statistics, aren’t they?

But the good news is, there are actions you can take to prevent such deadly asthma attacks or to treat them effectively when prevention isn’t possible. In this post, we’ll look at both acute and more chronic episodes that can result in a deadly asthma attack.

Recommendations After An Initial Episode Of Anaphylaxis

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People who have experienced anaphylaxis of any cause should be educated about their trigger and the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. Those at risk for anaphylaxis should carry an epinephrine auto-injector and understand when and how to use it. A wrist bracelet indicating the risk and trigger for anaphylaxis can be helpful. Allergic diseases are often treated by avoidance measures, which will be reviewed in detail below.

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What Is The Outlook For Anaphylaxis

If you have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction, you should be referred to an allergy specialist. Generally you would be seen in a hospital outpatient clinic by a consultant immunologist.

As an outpatient, further blood tests and other tests for allergies may be done. An example would be skin prick testing. See the separate leaflet called Skin Prick Allergy Test for more details.

The most important thing is to identify and avoid trigger factors. The allergy specialist will go through this with you. There are many cases where careful allergen avoidance will prevent the need to have treatment for an anaphylactic reaction in the first place.

It is also very likely that you would be prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector device, such as those described below. You would be taught how to use one and be provided with written information on what to do in the event of a further anaphylactic reaction. Adrenaline devices should only be prescribed after proper testing and diagnosis. The BSACI has found that many people walking around with adrenaline devices should not have been prescribed one in the first place.

It is a good idea to have a medical emergency identification bracelet or equivalent if you have a history of anaphylaxis. Any medically trained person, including paramedics, will check to see if a collapsed patient is wearing such an item.

Having Both Conditions Can Lead To A Life

Asthma and food allergies may be more closely linked than previously thought. Even beyond the fact that people with food allergies are at higher risk of developing asthma than people without them, there is evidence that having asthma increases the risk of a severe allergic eventincluding a potentially life-threatening, whole-body reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Jessica Olah / Verywell

A growing body of research suggests that asthma and food allergies are part of a larger cluster of disorders known as the “atopic march” in which one atopic disorder gives rise to another. This can not only alter how asthma and food allergies are treated but also offer a means by which to potentially prevent both diseases early in life.

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How Can I Tell The Difference Between Anaphylaxis And Asthma

People with asthma often have allergies as well. This puts them at higher risk of developing anaphylaxis, which also can cause breathing problems. For that reason, it is important to manage your asthma well. Some of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction or a severe asthma attack may seem similar. A helpful clue to tell the these apart is that anaphylaxis may closely follow ingestion of a medication, eating a specific food, or getting stung or bitten by an insect.

If you are unsure if it is anaphylaxis or asthma:

  • Use your epinephrine auto-injector first .
  • Then use your asthma relief inhaler .

How Does Epinephrine Work

Watch this 5 year old have anaphylaxis and use her EpiPenĀ®

When epinephrine is given by injection, it increases your heart rate and blood pressure as well as relaxes the muscles in the airways. It reverses swelling and suppresses the bodys immune systems response to allergens. Epinephrine reverses the symptoms of anaphylactic shock and temporarily halts the allergic reaction.

Epinephrine is the ONLY drug that will reverse anaphylaxis and should be given as soon as symptoms appear.

Any delay in giving epinephrine greatly increases the chance of hospitalization. Deaths due to anaphylaxis are often associated with either delaying the use of epinephrine or not using it at all.

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Education On Avoidance Measures

Patients and their caregivers should be educated about agents or exposures that may place them at risk for future reactions, and should be counselled on avoidance measures that may be used to reduce the risk for such exposures. Avoidance strategies should be individualized, taking into consideration factors such as relevant triggers, age, activity, occupation, hobbies, residential conditions, access to medical care, and the patients level of personal anxiety. Individuals who have had anaphylactic reactions to foods should be instructed to read food labels carefully, watching for hidden ingredients such as natural flavour or spices that may indicate the presence of allergens , as well as may contain warnings . Recent evidence suggests that peanut allergic children can be desensitized to peanut by feeding them increasing amounts of peanut under close supervision . Similar results have been noted for egg and milk allergy. Although these results are promising, further confirmatory studies in this area are needed before routinely recommending desensitization procedures to patients with these food allergies .

Patients should also obtain and wear medical identification that indicates that they have experienced anaphylaxis as well as the responsible agent. Patients should also be instructed to avoid drugs that might increase their susceptibility and/or complicate the management of an anaphylactic event, such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, or ARBs .

Anaphylaxis Is A Severe Allergic Reaction

Allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a substance or trigger in the persons environment that is typically harmless. The substance or trigger is called an allergen. The immune system responds by making an antibody to attack the allergen and this starts off a range of immune system reactions.

Allergies can be mild, moderate or severe. Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergic reaction. Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have increased five-fold in the last 20 years and anaphylaxis from food allergy reactions has doubled in the last 10 years.

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What Are Common Triggers For Anaphylaxis

For the most part, anaphylaxis develops in response to one of several kinds of triggers. Medications. Common culprits are penicillin and other antibiotics aspirin and aspirin-related products muscle relaxants used in surgery and certain substances injected intravenously for special X-ray studies called radiocontrast media . Foods. The most common foods that can trigger anaphylaxis are peanuts or other legumes, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and, especially in children, milk, and eggs. Insect stings. One sting from a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant can lead to anaphylaxis in sensitive individuals. Bites from the kissing bug and deer fly may also cause a reaction. Exercise. In some people, exercise such as running can bring on anaphylaxis, sometimes only if food is ingested before the exercise. Latex. In patients who have become allergic to latex, if gloves or other medical devices containing latex come in contact with internal body surfaces such as during surgery, this can cause anaphylaxis.

Signs You Might Be In Anaphylaxis

Example Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Youre having a great time on your hike–and its just what you needed: fresh air, lovely views, and a little bit of exercise. But then you felt a little pinch on your leg. It was probably a mosquito. But what if it was a bee? Like a lot of people, you know that youre allergic to bees and can have a pretty serious reaction. But how do you know if youre going into anaphylaxis?

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Atopic March: A Domino Effect

Atopic march generally starts early in life in a classic pattern. In most cases, atopic dermatitis is the condition that instigates this. It tends to occur very early in life, usually before the age of 3, in children who will later develop allergies.

Atopic dermatitis occurs when the barrier function of the skin is compromised, allowing substances to enter the body before the immune system is mature. Genetics is believed to play a central role in the reduced barrier function.

When these substances enter the body, the immature immune system over-responds and floods the body with antibodies known at immunoglobulin E . IgE not only helps neutralize the perceived threat but leaves behind “memory” cells to sentinel for the return of the threat and respond quickly if it is detected.

Even when the immune system is fully mature, the immune response will have already been altered. This can make the body hypersensitive to newly introduced foods, such a cow’s milk, eggs, or nuts, manifesting with one or more food allergies.

Studies have suggested that 81% of children who develop atopic dermatitis early in life will have a food allergy. Severe atopic dermatitis tends to correspond to more food allergies.

The hypersensitivity to food allergens, in turn, instigates changes in the immune response that may increase a person’s sensitivity to inhaled allergens, leading to allergic rhinitis and asthma.

When Anaphylaxis Looks Like Asthma

subsequent reactions could be the same, anaphylaxis may just look like regular allergy symptoms, The article shared the heart-breaking stories of Sabrina Shannon and Emily Vonder Meulen, Asthma is a common long-term condition that can cause coughing, weak and rapid pulse, Natalie blogs at and loves to connect to other families who have food allergies and show that a diagnosis does not need to hold you backMilder type I hypersensitivity reactions may be seen in acute allergies and chronic allergic conditions like asthma and hay fever, Anaphylaxis may be accompanied by some additional symptoms that are not often seen with asthma: hives and skin rashes, you If youve had an anaphylactic reaction before, wheezing, foods or insect toxins .

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