Allergy & Immunology


Anaphylaxis is the severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to a substance you’re allergic to. Certain people are more susceptible to anaphylaxis. Typically, the most common anaphylaxis triggers are food allergies, medications allergies, insect stings, or latex allergies. While rare, people can go into an anaphylactic shock from aerobic exercise or even walking. In this type of anaphylaxis reaction, the weather or foods a person ingests before exercising is also an important factor.

In an anaphylactic shock, a rush of chemicals is released by the body’s immune system that may cause you to go into shock. Your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing, and your blood pressure drops suddenly.

Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Skin reactions (hives or itchy, pale, or red skin)
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting spell
  • Tight airways or swollen throat or tongue
  • Weak pulse
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Stomach cramping
  • Sense of impending doom

Immediate medical attention is required for anaphylaxis. An injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room are necessary to properly treat anaphylactic shock. If you stop breathing or your heart stops breathing during an anaphylactic shock, you may receive CPR, oxygen to help you breathe and intravenous (IV) antihistamines and cortisone.

Without immediate treatment, anaphylactic shock can be fatal. 

Anaphylaxis Treatment and Management

If you suffer from extreme allergies, it is important that you wear a medical bracelet to indicate your allergy to specific substances. You should carry an injection of epinephrine with you at all times. The injector contains a single dose of medication that is injected into the thigh during an anaphylaxis episode. Your health care provider can show you and your family members the correct way to use an epinephrine injection.

If you believe you are going into shock or having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to take an antihistamine or wait for the symptoms to subside.