An allergic reaction is a condition in which the immune system tries to attack a foreign substance in or on the body. Usually, the immune system is tasked with protecting the body against a host of foreign invaders such as bacteria, toxins, or viruses.
Sometimes, however, the immune system can be hypersensitive to foreign substances, and ends up treating normally harmless materials as if they were the same as these threats. Ironically, this can lead to many harmful reactions in the body, such as anaphylaxis, which is defined as a severe and possibly life-threatening allergic reaction.
How to Survive an Anaphylactic Reaction
Taking a preemptive strike: As is the case with any medical emergency, knowing how to prevent anaphylaxis is just as important as knowing what to do after it’s already occurred. The exact number of people who suffer from severe allergies is unknown, but medical statistics show that 1.6-5.1% of Americans have experienced anaphylactic shock in their lifetime.
While it is rare, if you do have a sensitivity, such as a nut allergy, knowing about it by having an allergy test really could help save your life. Allergy tests are very simple, and usually involve having a skin or blood test done to find out exactly which substances act as a patient’s allergens, and how severe the reactions displayed can be. After the allergy test is conducted, you will know specifically what substances you are allergic to, so that you can avoid them in the future.
Defending yourself: after the allergy test has been conducted, if you are found to have certain allergies, it may be in your best interest to consult with your doctor about getting an epinephrine autoinjector. These devices work by injecting a premeasured amount of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the body, which works to counteract the harmful symptoms enacted by anaphylaxis. If you are in a situation that requires the use of epinephrine, you m ust proceed to the emergency room for observation to make sure that the symptoms don’t return after the medicine wears off.
During a severe allergic reaction, the airway can constrict and blood vessels may dilate, which can lead to suffocation or a deadly drop in blood pressure, respectively. Epinephrine constricts blood vessels and relaxes the airways, therefore reversing the symptoms of both problems. You should also make sure you know how to correctly use your epinephrine autoinjector, in order to utilize it to its full potential.
Always contact medical help: if you believe you are having an anaphylactic reaction, it is imperative that you call 911 immediately, even if you use epinephrine and/or you think the worst has passed. Remember that only trained medical professionals can accurately assess your well-being.
Communicate with your doctor: one of the best lines of defense in preventing or surviving any medical emergency is keeping a thorough and open line of communication with your doctor, so as to discuss exactly what is right for you, and what you can do in order to live a healthier, happier life.
Please call Intercoastal Medical Group today at (941) 362-8640 for an appointment with our allergy & asthma specialist, Matthew Aresery, MD, or request an appointment online. If you have any further questions about anaphylaxis or the prevention of allergic reactions, please do not hesitate to contact us.