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Anaphylaxis is a potentially severe or life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms can occur very soon after exposure to an allergen and are actually a product of your immune system’s response to the allergen, rather than the allergen itself. There are several allergens that can cause anaphylaxis, but the most common are bees, shellfish, certain medications, and peanuts. Click To Tweet

Warning Signs of Anaphylaxis

Your family doctor is often the first line of defense in preventing and identifying a high risk for anaphylaxis. Preparation is crucial to identify potential signs of anaphylaxis. If you’ve had a bad allergic reaction in the past, then any future reaction is also likely to be severe. It is particularly important that those with asthma and allergies to be seen by an allergy specialist.

Skin Reactions

Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat is a common sign of anaphylaxis. Also known as angioedema, the swelling involves the deeper layers of the skin. It can occur on almost any part of the body, but when it affects the lips, tongue or throat the swelling can interfere with or block your airway. In addition to swelling, rashes, redness or tingling can occur.

Difficulty Breathing

When the tissue in the upper airways swells, it can make it hard to breathe. Wheezing or stridor can signal such swelling and is obvious since it creates a noise. If the lips and tongue become bluish, this can signal that the respiratory system is failing. Without oxygen, the blood cannot be oxygenated and the organs become starved. Without prompt treatment, massive organ failure is possible.


People experiencing dizziness may describe it as a false sense of motion or spinning (vertigo), lightheadedness, loss of balance or loss of vision. Dizziness may be worsened by walking, standing up or moving around, and it may be accompanied by nausea.

Rapid or Weak Pulse

When your immune system responds so dramatically to allergens, you may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can make your heart feel as though ti’s racing, or perhaps not beating fast enough. Such an irregular heartbeat can even cause you to lose consciousness or collapse.

Trust Your Body

Symptoms of anaphylaxis vary from person to person. One might only have mild swelling while someone else is unable to breathe. If you feel like there’s something wrong with your body that could be anaphylaxis, air on the side of caution and trust your gut. Your family medical services should be utilized for mild to moderate symptoms, but in the event of an emergency, you need to get to a hospital.

Get Help

Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and should be treated at a hospital. In the event that you’re waiting for an ambulance, remove the allergen (if possible). Administer epinephrine if it’s available. In severe cases, you may need to administer CPR. Keep in mind that anaphylaxis is often confused with a severe asthma attack. If you or your loved one has known allergies, let hospital staff or EMTs know.

Contact Us to learn more about protecting yourself or your loved one from the dangerous complications of allergies.