Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction. It starts soon after you are exposed to something to which you are allergic. You may have swelling, itching, or a rash. Some people have trouble breathing, a tight feeling in their chest, dizziness, and they feel anxious. Other people have stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea. Some people lose consciousness ("pass out").
What causes anaphylaxis?
Many things can cause anaphylaxis. The cause is different for each person and can be hard to find. Some common causes include the following:
Foods, such as shellfish, nuts, peanuts, eggs, and fruits
Medicines, such as antibiotics, aspirin, over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy shots, and contrast dye for radiologic procedures
Latex, or rubber, which is found in surgical gloves, medical supplies, and many products in your home
Insect stings, especially from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, sawflies, and fire ants
How do I prevent a reaction?
You can do many things to help prevent a reaction.
If you have had anaphylaxis, make sure your doctor and dentist know and that it is recorded on your medical chart. Tell them what you are allergic to if you know.
Keep an emergency anaphylaxis kit with you at all times. Make sure the people around you, such as your family and friends, know how to use it.
If you are allergic to insect stings, wear protective clothing and insect repellent when outside.
Avoid handling or eating foods to which you are allergic. Even tiny amounts mixed by accident into your food can cause a reaction. Read the ingredient list on packaged foods you are going to eat.
Wear or carry a medical alert bracelet, necklace, or keychain that warns emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and doctors that you are at risk for anaphylaxis.
Ask your doctor if you need desensitization shots.
Ask your doctor if there are other things to which you also might be allergic.