What Causes Anaphylaxis?

Up to 5% of Americans experience anaphylaxis: a severe and potentially life-threatening type of allergic reaction. It can happen to people of all ages, and it develops quickly — often within a few minutes of exposure to the substance you’re allergic to.

The only way to prevent it is to completely avoid your allergy triggers, but avoiding exposure isn’t always possible, even if you’re extremely cautious. It’s important to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis and know what to do in the event of a medical emergency.

At Allergy & Environmental Treatment Center LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona, our doctors specialize in allergy testing and treatment. Allergy testing is the best way to identify the substances that put you at risk for an allergic reaction so you can be prepared. Here, we explain why anaphylaxis occurs and what to do if you or someone close to you goes into anaphylactic shock.

Understanding anaphylaxis

Your body’s immune system naturally protects you from harmful substances. It’s an important line of defense against things like viruses and bacteria. Sometimes, however, your immune system can attack otherwise harmless substances.

If you have asthma or allergies, your immune system reacts differently to certain triggers. Allergy triggers can be environmental — such as tree pollen or perfume — or dietary — such as peanuts — and when you come into contact with your triggers, your immune system goes into overdrive.

Although allergy symptoms are very bothersome, a good majority of them are not life-threatening. Anaphylaxis, on the other hand, is a severe allergic reaction that can endanger your life.

In anaphylaxis, your immune system suddenly releases a large amount of chemicals, putting you into a state of shock. Your blood pressure drops, and your air passages narrow, triggering symptoms like:

Symptoms typically develop in seconds or minutes after exposure to an allergen. They may intensify rapidly, and they don’t go away on their own. 

Common anaphylaxis triggers

If you have asthma or any allergies, you’re at risk of anaphylaxis. Any allergen can cause anaphylaxis, but some triggers are more commonly linked to anaphylaxis than others, for example:

Exposure to even a tiny amount of these substances could be enough to cause anaphylaxis if you have a severe allergy. 

What to do in cases of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if it’s not treated quickly. If you or your child has allergies, our team can help you develop an action plan to identify and avoid triggers, address allergic reactions, and reduce the risk of anaphylaxis. 

Anyone who’s at risk for anaphylaxis should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace indicating their allergies. They should also carry a medication kit with an epinephrine injector.

If you or someone near you starts to experience symptoms of anaphylaxis, administer epinephrine immediately. Then call 911 or seek immediate emergency medical care.

Avoiding allergy complications starts by identifying your allergens. Schedule allergy testing for yourself or a loved one at Allergy & Environmental Treatment Center LLC. Call our team at 480-634-2985, or book an appointment online now.

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