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Are You At Risk for Anaphylaxis?

Are You At Risk for Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction. It can be life-threatening when not treated right away. At Integrative Primary Care in Houston, our patients with allergies often ask our allergy providers whether they’re at risk for this serious condition. 

Studies show about 5% of the U.S. population has suffered from anaphylactic shock. Thanks to modern medicine, however, this once fatal reaction now causes few deaths. In fact, less than 1% of people who have an anaphylactic reaction fail to recover

So how can you tell if your allergies mean you might have an anaphylactic reaction? Keep reading to learn what you need to know about anaphylaxis and whether you’re at risk.

Understanding anaphylaxis

When your immune system treats certain particles (allergens) as hostile invaders, it releases certain chemicals. These chemicals (histamines) work to destroy the allergens, triggering what we call an allergic reaction

Most of the time, allergic reactions only affect one area of the body. For example, if you’re allergic to pollen, your respiratory system feels the effects. If you’re allergic to a certain material, such as rayon, your skin may react. 

When you have an anaphylactic reaction, your immune system floods your body with histamines. This rush of chemicals affects more than one system and can put your body in a state of shock, which is why you may hear the phrase anaphylactic shock. 

This severe allergic reaction can take place immediately after exposure to the allergen. On average, it occurs between 20 minutes and 2 hours after exposure. In rare cases, it may take several days for a person to go into anaphylactic shock. 

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition and a medical emergency. This is because it causes your blood pressure to drop rapidly and closes the airways that bring oxygen to your brain and body. Don’t wait to get help if you suspect anaphylaxis.

Risk factors for anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis can happen at any time. It rarely occurs with your first exposure to an allergen. Instead, it usually happens after you’re sensitized to the allergen. 

This means everyone is potentially at risk of developing anaphylaxis. Some factors make it more likely you may experience an anaphylactic reaction, including having the following:

People who take certain heart medications (beta-blockers or alpha-adrenergic blockers) also have an elevated risk. 

Treating anaphylaxis

If you’ve had a strong allergic reaction in the past — even if it didn’t escalate to anaphylaxis — or if you have one of the risk factors, be sure to schedule an appointment with an allergy expert at Integrative Primary Care. 

Your provider at Integrative Primary Care may prescribe a special medication that you carry with you. The medication is an injection of adrenaline, or epinephrine. It comes pre-filled in a syringe (auto-injector). It’s sometimes called an EpiPen®. 

Remember, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you have an anaphylactic reaction and carry an EpiPen, inject it immediately. Then head to the nearest emergency room — even if your symptoms seem to get better. 

To learn more about anaphylaxis, call 832-500-7585 or book an appointment online with Integrative Primary Care today.

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