The symptoms of anaphylactic shock: How to spot a severe allergic reaction

Anaphylaxis - also known as anaphylactic shock - is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to a trigger such as an allergy.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 9:09 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 9:42 am

Anaphylaxis usually develops suddenly and gets worse very quickly. Cases are medical emergencies. It can be very serious if not treated quickly.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

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:: Feeling lightheaded or faint

:: Breathing difficulties – such as fast, shallow breathing

:: Wheezing

:: A fast heartbeat

:: Clammy skin

:: Confusion and anxiety

:: Collapsing or losing consciousness

There may also be other allergy symptoms, including an itchy, raised rash (hives), feeling or being sick, swelling (angioedema), or stomach pain.

Triggers of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is the result of the immune system – the body's natural defence system – overreacting to a trigger.

This is often something you're allergic to, but isn't always.

Common anaphylaxis triggers include:

:: Foods – including nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs and some fruits

:: Medicines – including some antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin

:: Insect stings – particularly wasp and bee stings

:: General anaesthetic

:: Contrast agents – special dyes used in some medical tests to help certain areas of your body show up better on scans

:: Latex – a type of rubber found in some rubber gloves and condoms

In some cases, there's no obvious trigger. This is known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.

Preventing anaphylaxis

If you have a serious allergy or have experienced anaphylaxis before, it's important to try to prevent future episodes.

The following can help reduce your risk:

: Identify any triggers – you may be referred to an allergy clinic for allergy tests to check for anything that could trigger anaphylaxis

:: Avoid triggers whenever possible – for example, you should be careful when food shopping or eating out if you have a food allergy

:: Carry your adrenaline auto-injector at all times (if you have two, carry them both) – give yourself an injection whenever you think you may be experiencing anaphylaxis, even if you're not completely sure