Anaphylaxis occurs in the very worst of allergy cases. Allergy symptoms become systemic and affect body functions such as breathing, blood circulation, and heart rate. It can lead to shock, coma, heart attack and death.
In the majority of cases, anaphylaxis is caused by severe allergies to foods or insect stings. The most common food allergies that cause anaphylaxis are nuts—especially peanuts and tree nuts—and fish, particularly shellfish. In some cases, however, anaphylaxis can result from reactions to medications, latex, and other contact allergens. Those who suffer from both allergies and asthma are at an increased risk to have an anaphylactic reaction.
Anaphylactic Shock is another term for anaphylaxis but is usually applied to the most severe cases, where patients experience a severe, life-threatening reaction to an allergy trigger. It involves difficulty breathing, chest pains, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, and other steadily increasing symptoms which must be treated within 30 minutes to an hour of onset.
Patients experiencing anaphylaxis need an immediate injection of epinephrine via auto-pen (often called an epipen), and should seek emergency medical attention right away. If not treated within 30 minutes to an hour, anaphylaxis can be fatal.
Hereditary angioedema, or HAE, is a very rare genetic condition affecting anywhere from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000 patients. Patients experiencing this illness experience swelling in their hands, feet, face, and air passages. Such patients also experience excruciating pain in their abdomen that is accompanied by swelling. It is caused by a defective gene that negatively affects the production of the C1 Inhibitor protein. Because of the symptoms, it can sometimes be confused with anaphylaxis. Diagnosing this illness is essential to treat and relieve the symptoms.
Dr. Blessing-Moore and Dr. Maskatia are experienced in diagnosing and treating a variety of allergy and immune disorders for patients in the San Mateo and Palo Alto areas of California.