Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially fatal, multi-system allergic reaction. Whether it is brought on by a peanut, a wasp, or penicillin, anaphylaxis can be deadly if not treated promptly. People who have allergies that could lead to anaphylaxis should avoid any allergens that may cause a reaction and always have prescribed auto-injectors on-hand and stored in protective cases like the Ana-Tote travel case.
Helpful Information on Food Allergies
|Food Allergy FAQ||Managing Food Allergies in Children||Dr. Fred Pescatore on Hidden Food Allergies|
|Eating Out Safely with Food Allergies||Guest Columnist Allegra Cullen, Age 12, on Peanut Allergy||Allergy911.com|
Food Allergy Information
A food allergy develops when the body's immune system becomes overly sensitive to a normally harmless food protein. The most common food allergens are cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts; these "big eight" food allergens account for over 90% of food allergies. Common symptoms of food allergy include tingling of the mouth, fatigue, hyperactivity, headaches, abdominal pain, runny nose, itchy skin, and hives. Anaphylactic reactions present more extreme symptoms like difficulty breathing and sometimes even death.
The number of children with potentially fatal peanut allergy doubled between 1997 and 2002. Many experts believe that the incidence of food allergy is increasing because our modern world does not expose us to enough germs and parasites, making our immune systems more likely to react to allergens; this theory is known as the hygiene hypothesis, and it applies to the increase of other allergic conditions as well.
A true food allergy differs from a food intolerance or sensitivity. With a food allergy, symptoms result from an immediate immune system response. However, a food intolerance or sensitivity generally revolves around responses from the digestive system. Since symptoms of food sensitivities may not appear until days later (and many people don't even realize the origin of the symptoms), food sensitivities are sometimes referred to as Hidden Food Allergies.
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis
Food-induced anaphylaxis kills approximately 150 people in the U.S. each year, and most of them are children or young adults. The only way to avoid anaphylaxis is to strictly avoid the allergens that may cause it.
Children may have a difficult time understanding or explaining their food allergy. Clear communication is vital when dealing with food allergies. Read all labels and make sure people in your life know about the allergy. Visual indicators like Food Allergy T-Shirts let others know about the food allergy. Food Allergy Restaurant Cards serve the same purpose and are recommended for adults as well as children with food allergies. See Managing Food Allergies in Children for more tips for parents of children with food allergies.
Drug Allergy & Anaphylaxis
Drug allergies are not side effects of medications; drug allergies involve the same type of histamine-releasing reaction seen in peanut allergies or seasonal allergies. Typical mild drug allergy symptoms include rash, itching, and hives; moderate to severe symptoms may include swelling, difficulty breathing, falling blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. Drug allergies may be anaphylactic and lead to death if left untreated. Fortunately, most allergic reactions to drugs occur in clinical or hospital settings, allowing for prompt treatment.
Penicillin and related antibiotics are the most common culprits behind drug allergies. Other drugs known to cause allergic reactions in sensitized individuals include sulfa drugs, barbituates, anticonvulsants, insulin, and iodine. The asthma drug Xolair has also been known to cause anaphylaxis. Many people with drug allergies wear bracelets or pendants to let healthcare workers know about the allergy in case of an emergency.
Stinging Insect Allergy & Anaphylaxis
Nobody likes getting stung by a wasp or fire ant, but one annoying sting could actually kill allergic individuals. Symptoms may include itching and hives, facial and airway swelling, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, and nausea.
Most allergic reactions are caused by one of the following stinging insects: yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets, and fire ants. If you are allergic to a stinging insect, keep away from it! Be careful when outdoors. Food, drinks, and bright clothing may attract insects. If you are stung by a bee and the stinger remains in your skin, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) suggests pulling out the stinger immediately to avoid further transfer of venom.
Latex Allergy & Anaphylaxis
Latex is the sap produced by rubber trees, and it's found in various natural rubber products like gloves, balloons, and condoms. People who work around latex frequently have an increased risk of developing latex allergy; five to fifteen percent of healthcare workers are allergic to latex because of ongoing exposure to latex gloves and other medical supplies containing latex.
There are two main types of latex allergy. The first type, delayed contact dermatitis, causes a skin reaction similar to poison ivy within 24 to 48 hours after exposure, The second type of reaction is immediate and may cause swelling, itching, redness, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis.
Sometimes people with latex allergy experience a cross-reaction when they eat certain fruits, vegetables, or nuts with proteins similar to those in latex. The Poinsettia plant may also cause a cross-reaction. People who are extremely sensitive to latex may even react to a small amount of latex in the air - when walking into a store with balloons, for instance. If you have latex allergy, make sure that all your healthcare providers know about it.
Prevention & Treatment of Anaphylaxis
Allergen avoidance is the key to preventing anaphylaxis. If you have a potentially fatal allergy, you should do everything in your power to avoid exposure to the allergen. However, you should always carry an auto-injector in case of accidental exposure. Auto-injectors contain epinephrine (adrenaline), which should be used to temporarily stabilize symptoms during emergency anaphylaxis. For those who require auto-injectors, we recommend protective cases like the Ana-Tote travel case.
Anyone who experiences a severe allergic reaction should call 911 immediately and go to the hospital, even after using an auto-injector. The anaphylaxis may appear to be over, only to come back stronger. See Allergy911.com for more information about what to do during an allergy emergency.