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- Anaphylaxis facts
- What is anaphylaxis?
- What is the history of anaphylaxis?
- What are common causes of anaphylaxis?
- What are anaphylaxis symptoms and signs?
- What happens after the symptoms begin?
- Are there any disorders that appear similar to anaphylaxis?
- How is anaphylaxis diagnosed?
- How do we manage anaphylaxis?
- What are emergency measures used in the treatment of anaphylaxis?
- Is it possible to prevent anaphylaxis?
Quick GuideAllergy 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.