Anaphylaxis Explained

The Doctors discuss the story of a 39-year-old woman who passed away from an extreme allergic reaction to the dye used to color her hair. Allergist Dr. Danica Schulte explains that severe reactions such as this can occur if mild allergies are left untreated, so it’s important not to ignore symptoms such as contact dermatitis (a skin rash caused by contact with an allergen).

New allergies can develop over time, as well, so even if you have used a product in the past without a problem, you can experience an adverse reaction to it later in life. OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton shares that she developed a serious nut allergy in her late thirties, which resulted in an episode of severe anaphylaxis that nearly took her life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that triggers the release of certain chemicals by your immune system, which can cause a patient to go into shock. If left untreated, patients can lose consciousness or even die.

Common symptoms:

  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Skin rash, including hives, itchiness, and flushed or pale skin
  • Troubled breathing, including airway constriction and swollen tongue or throat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting

Common triggers for anaphylaxis include certain medications, foods, insect stings and latex.

Prevention
Dr. Schulte explains that if you begin to experience signs of contact dermatitis, there are tests you can take to determine the cause of the allergy, including a 24-hour patch test, which can be acquired from an allergist. Repeat exposure to an allergen can result in progressively worse reactions, so early diagnosis and trigger avoidance is key to preventing a tragedy, Dr. Schulte adds.

If you know you suffer from a life-threatening allergy, be sure to take steps to protect yourself, including avoiding triggers and carrying an epinephrine pen in case of accidental exposure.

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