Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening or fatal. It happens quickly and usually involves difficulty in breathing, feeling faint or lightheaded. In some cases, it can lead to a collapse.
Some people might get skin wheals (hives) and/or angioedema before they start having difficulties in breathing.
Triggering a reaction
Key triggers for anaphylaxis include:
- stinging insects such as bees, wasps and hornets.
Sometimes it is difficult or impossible to find a clear trigger; as it could be caused by a combination of occurrences.
Some people have an episode when they exercise, but for others, it is when they combine certain foods or drugs with exercise.
Testing for triggers
Anyone who has had an anaphylactic reaction should have a follow-up with a specialist to help identify and avoid the trigger(s).
Something in your medical or family history, or from skin or blood tests can be enough to identify the trigger. In other cases, it may involve careful challenge (provocation) testing in hospital, under medical supervision.
If you have had a reaction, you should receive a list of the triggers involved and a plan of how to manage any future episodes.
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Treatments for anaphylaxis
Self-injected adrenaline is the best treatment to give immediately when a reaction happens. You may also be prescribed other drugs such as corticosteroids and antihistamines to take.
If your reaction is caused by insect stings, you may be given specific allergen immunotherapy (‘desensitisation’). This may be necessary to protect against further allergic reactions.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign website offers further support for those living with anaphylaxis and their families.
Allergy team contact information
Fulham wing/South block, Fulham Road
Tel: 020 7351 8892
Fax: 020 73518949