Anaphylaxis (Severe Allergic Reaction)

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View 10 Common Allergy Triggers Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideAllergy Pictures Slideshow: 10 Common Allergy Triggers

Allergy Pictures Slideshow: 10 Common Allergy Triggers

What is the history of anaphylaxis?

To fully understand this term, we need to go back almost 100 years. The story begins on a cruise aboard Prince Albert I of Monaco's yacht. The prince had invited two Parisian scientists to perform studies on the toxin produced by the tentacles of a local jellyfish, the Portuguese Man of War. Charles Richet and Paul Portier were able to isolate the toxin and tried to vaccinate dogs in the hope of obtaining protection, or "prophylaxis," against the toxin. They were horrified to find that subsequent very small doses of the toxin unexpectedly resulted in a new dramatic illness that involved the rapid onset of breathing difficulty and resulted in death within 30 minutes. Richet and Portier termed this "anaphylaxis" or "against protection." They rightly concluded that the immune system first becomes sensitized to the allergen over several weeks and upon reexposure to the same allergen may result in a severe reaction. An allergen is a substance that is foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people.

  • The first documented case of presumed anaphylaxis occurred in 2641 BC when Menes, an Egyptian pharaoh, died mysteriously following a wasp or hornet sting. Later, in Babylonian times, there are two distinct references to deaths due to wasp stings.
  • Charles Richet was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his work on anaphylaxis.

Richet went on to suggest that the allergen must result in the production of a substance, which then sensitized the dogs to react in such a way upon reexposure. This substance turned out to be IgE.

In the first part of the 20th century, anaphylactic reactions were most commonly caused by tetanus diphtheria vaccinations made from horse serum. Today, human serum is used for tetanus prevention, and the most common causes of anaphylaxis are now penicillin and other antibiotics, insect stings, and certain foods.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Anaphylaxis - Describe Your Experience

    Please describe your experience with anaphylaxis.

    Post View 36 Comments
  • Anaphylaxis - Symptoms and Signs

    What symptoms and signs did you experience with anaphylaxis?

    Post View 19 Comments
  • Anaphylaxis - Possible Causes

    Do you know what caused your case of anaphylaxis? Please share your experience.

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Anaphylaxis - Diagnosis

    Discuss the events that led to a diagnosis of anaphylaxis. Did you end up in the ER?

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Anaphylaxis - Prevention

    If you've experienced anaphylaxis, how do you prevent another occurrence? Do you have an EpiPen?

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Anaphylaxis - Treatment

    What kind of treatment did you get for anaphylaxis?

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors