Editorial Staff and Contributors
Anaphylaxis is a severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergic reaction. It affects multiple organs, including the heart and lungs.
It is important to seek medical care right away if you have symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Substances that cause anaphylaxis are often called allergens or triggers. Common triggers include:
Some triggers, like dyes used in x-ray procedures, can cause a reaction similar to anaphylaxis.
These factors increase your chance of developing anaphylaxis. Anyone can have anaphylaxis. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
The symptoms of anaphylaxis usually occur within minutes after exposure to an allergen, but can occur hours later. Symptoms may be mild or very severe, including death. They include:
The doctor will suspect anaphylaxis if you have symptoms and have been exposed to a likely allergen. It is also important to follow up with a doctor who specializes in allergies (allergist/immunologist). The diagnosis of allergy with a risk of anaphylactic reactions is made based on the patient’s history. It is confirmed with skin tests and sometimes blood tests done by allergy specialists.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment, including:
NOTE: If you receive emergency epinephrine, you should go to the emergency room right away, even if your symptoms have gone away.
If you are diagnosed with anaphylaxis, follow your doctor's
Avoiding substances that trigger anaphylaxis is the best prevention. In addition:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
Am Fam Physician. 2003 Oct 1;68(7):1339-1340. Available at:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20031001/1339ph.html. Accessed February 28, 2008.
EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 7, 2012. Accessed November 2, 2012.
Kay AB. Allergy and allergic diseases–second of two parts.
N Engl J Med. 2001;344:109-113.
Lieberman P, Kemp SF, Oppenheimer J. The diagnosis and management of anaphylaxis: An updated practice parameter.
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Mar;115(3 Suppl 2):S483-523.
Pumphrey R. Anaphylaxis: can we tell who is at risk of a fatal reaction?.
Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004; 4:285.
Sampson, HA, Munoz-Furlong, A, Campbell, RL, et al. Second symposium on the definition and management of anaphylaxis: summary report—Second National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease/Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network symposium.
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;117:391.
Simons E. Anaphylaxis.
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;125: S161-81.
Winbery SL, Lieberman PL. Anaphylaxis.
Immunol Allergy Clin North Am
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.