What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe life-threatening allergy. Normally, the immune system defends the body against threats such as bacteria and viruses. An allergy is when a person’s immune system reacts abnormally to something it’s exposed to- for example, certain types of food, pollen, animal dander, insect bites or medication.
The immune system releases chemicals in response to the trigger.
In mild allergies, this can result in symptoms such as itchy eyes, hives and a runny nose. However, in anaphylaxis the allergic reaction is much more severe and can happen within moments of exposure to a trigger- a wave of chemicals is released by the immune system, quickly affecting a person’s breathing and circulation. It is a medical emergency and usually requires urgent treatment with an adrenaline injection.
What causes Anaphylaxis?
Following exposure to the trigger, there is a release of inflammatory substances from certain types of white blood cells, which are part of the body’s immune system. These substances have a rapid effect on various parts of the body, including blood vessels, airways, the heart and the gut, leading to the typical symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Common anaphylaxis triggers include:
- Foods such as peanuts, treenuts, fish, shellfish and others,
- Medications, such as antibiotics, aspirin, intravenous contrast,
- Insect stings and bites – from wasps, bees, fire ants,
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