Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that occurs quickly after a sensitive person is exposed to an allergic trigger, and if not treated quickly and correctly, it is often life-threatening. Common allergens that trigger anaphylaxis, usually at the second or later exposure to the allergen, involve certain foods, latex, medication, insect stings. It can also be caused by exercise.
Anaphylactic reactions occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a benign trigger, causing drastic and harmful effects. The symptoms of anaphylaxis vary from person to person, but commonly, an anaphylactic attack first involves itching of the face, mouth, and eyes. It can progress to vomiting, hives, abdominal pain and cramping. Without quick treatment, anaphylaxis symptoms get worse and more dangerous, including chest pain, weakness, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, blue skin, unconsciousness, and potentially death.
Anaphylaxis must be treated quickly, because symptoms progress to dangerous levels within a very short period of time. A timely, accurate diagnosis prepares patients to take four important steps that can save their lives:
- Know their triggers and avoid them, including by informing others (teachers, restaurant workers, coworkers, etc.) that they are at risk for an attack
- Know the symptoms of anaphylaxis so they and those around them can recognize attacks at their beginning stages
- Keep medication (typically two epinephrine auto-injectors) on hand at all times
- Be prepared to dial or have someone dial 911
Unfortunately, allergies and anaphylaxis may be misdiagnosed as a variety of illnesses that have similar symptoms. These “red herring” misdiagnoses include asthma, panic attacks, and sepsis. It is also more common than it should be for doctors or other medical professionals to underestimate or downplay the severity of a patient’s allergic reactions, or to fail to inform the patient that they are at risk for anaphylactic episodes.
If you or a loved one have suffered an anaphylactic attack and suffered serious injury as a result of your doctor’s negligence, failure to warn, or misdiagnosis contact us for a free initial consultation to discuss the facts of your case.
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