Anaphylaxis is a rare but severe allergic reaction. It occurs suddenly, can worsen quickly and can be deadly. Anaphylaxis happens after being exposed to a triggering agent. The agent leads to the release of normal body chemicals such as histamine that cause allergy symptoms.
Food is the most common trigger for anaphylaxis. Severe allergic reactions to foods such as peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews), fish,shellfish, cow's milk, and eggs account for about half of all anaphylaxis cases and 100 U.S. deaths each year.
Stings from insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets are the cause of about 500,000 allergy-related emergency room visits each year and at least 40 U.S. deaths from anaphylaxis.
If you had an anaphylaxis attack in the past:
- Wear a medical bracelet that lists your trigger.
- Avoid your trigger. The most effective way to prevent future trouble is to avoid contact with your trigger.
- Know what to do if you unexpectedly come into contact with your trigger. Your doctor can help you make a detailed plan for emergency care.
- If your doctor has prescribed an epinephrine shot, carry it with you at all times.
- Teach your family and friends how to help you if you begin to have anaphylaxis and cannot help yourself.
S -Seek immediate medical help. Call 911 and get to the nearest emergency facility at the first sign of anaphylaxis, even if you have already administered epinephrine, the drug used to treat severe allergic reactions. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past, you are at risk of future reactions.
A -Identify the Allergen. Think about what you might have eaten or come in contact with – food, insect sting, medication, latex – to trigger an allergic reaction. It is particularly important to identify the cause because the best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid its trigger.
F - Follow up with a specialist. Ask your doctor for a referral to an allergist/immunologist, a physician who specializes in treating asthma and allergies. It is important that you consult an allergist for testing, diagnosis and ongoing management of your allergic disease.
E - Carry Epinephrine for emergencies. Kits containing fast-acting, self-administered epinephrine are commonly prescribed for people who are at risk of anaphylaxis. Make sure that you carry an epinephrine kit with you at all times, and that family and friends know of your condition, your triggers and how to use epinephrine. Consider wearing an emergency medical bracelet or necklace identifying yourself as a person at risk of anaphylaxis. Teachers and other caregivers should be informed of children who are at risk for anaphylaxis and know what to do in an allergic emergency