Pictures of Anaphylaxis Symptoms
What is Anaphylaxis?
If you are allergic to nuts, shellfish, bee stings, latex, or certain medications, you may be at risk for anaphylaxis. A potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergic substance, anaphylaxis creates fast and serious symptoms throughout the entire body. Without treatment, symptoms can cause serious health consequences and even death.
The following pages describe in detail what happens during anaphylaxis. Becoming familiar with these steps will help you recognize these symptoms in time to potentially save a life.
What Causes Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly overreacts to an allergen. Immune cells see the “invader” as a threat, and assemble forces to attack and destroy it. Those who have had allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in the past—or who have a family history of the reaction—are more at risk.
Anaphylaxis may occur “out of the blue,” or after years of avoiding a known allergen. Some people experience exercise-induced anaphylaxis as well. This is when the combination of exercise and exposure to an allergen can together create anaphylaxis.
That Feeling of Doom
Those who have gone through anaphylaxis often describe an early “weird” feeling or “sense of impending doom.” Since the reaction involves the whole body, patients may get a sense that something is happening before any visible symptoms show up. They may also feel anxious, like something is wrong but they’re not quite sure what it is. A rapid heart rate may accompany this feeling, contributing to the overall sense of anxiety.
First Visible Symptom Usually Evident on the Skin
The first visible symptom of anaphylaxis usually occurs in the skin, which gets red. Often, this occurs in the cheeks, and may look like flushing, though it will not include any sweating. Redness can also occur on the chest and neck, or other areas of the body.
Next, the victim may develop hives, which are itchy, raised welts on the surface of the skin. The itching can be intense, but it’s important not to scratch to avoid wounds and potential scarring. The affected area may also feel warm to the touch.
Swelling in the Eyes, Lips, Hands, and Other Areas
Next, the swelling or inflammation will likely spread. Inflammation is a key sign of immune activity, and will often signal an allergic reaction. The eyes, lips, hands, feet, and other areas of the face and body may swell up rapidly. Some people’s eyes swell shut, or their lips may double in size.
Whenever body parts swell up, they may also itch and tingle. Itchy, swollen eyes, for instance, are common in an anaphylactic reaction.
While the swelling is going on, nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and other hay fever-like symptoms often occur. The tongue may swell and the throat and chest may tighten up, which can create coughing, trouble breathing, and trouble swallowing. The victim may start to wheeze. These are some of the more dangerous symptoms that can lead to a lack of oxygen and other serious health consequences.
Anaphylaxis can also quickly affect the digestive system. Victims may experience cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. They may also feel a general abdominal pain, or even an urge to rush to the bathroom. These symptoms are most common with food or medication allergies, and may last for hours after the initial reaction.
If you feel lightheaded, you could be suffering from a drop in blood pressure. This is related to your heart and blood vessel function during the reaction. The chemicals flooding your bloodstream may cause tiny blood vessels to widen, lowering blood pressure and potentially causing dizziness.
Your heart rate may also change, speeding up to try to compensate for the drop in blood pressure, for example. Those with existing heart disease are more at risk for cardiac symptoms from anaphylaxis, and may suffer a heart “spasm,” chest pain, or even an actual cardiac arrest.
Neurologic Symptoms Including Headache
As the release of histamine and other chemicals may affect the heart and chest, it can also cause changes in the brain. Victims may experience headaches, confusion, and anxiety, and may have trouble speaking clearly. Vision may be affected, becoming blurry temporarily. Some people may even faint or suffer a loss of consciousness. Seizures may also occur, but these only rarely occur with anaphylaxis.
Get Help, Act Quickly
Reviewing these symptoms can help you take immediate action when you observe them, either in yourself or someone else. If the reaction is more on the mild side, involving only minor swelling and sneezing, you can probably administer an antihistamine and proceed with careful watching. If the victim is experiencing trouble breathing, faints, or suffers a loss of consciousness, however, time is of the essence. Call for an ambulance immediately, and if you have an epinephrine autoinjector, such as the EpiPen, use it.
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- Lockey, R.F. (2012, September). Anaphylaxis: Synopsis. World Allergy Organization. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from http://www.worldallergy.org/professional/allergic_diseases_center/anaphylaxis/anaphylaxissynopsis.php
- What Is Anaphylaxis: Signs and Symptoms. (n.d.). Anaphylaxis Campaign. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from http://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/what-is-anaphylaxis/signs-and-symptoms