Anaphylaxis (Severe Allergic Reaction)

  • Medical Author:
    Allison Ramsey, MD

    Dr. Allison Ramsey earned her undergraduate degree at Colgate University and her medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her internal medicine training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and remained at the university to complete her fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology. Dr. Ramsey is board certified in internal medicine and allergy and immunology. Her professional interests include the treatment of drug allergy and eosinophilic disorders. She also enjoys teaching medical trainees. She is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the New York State Allergy Society, and the Finger Lakes Allergy Society. In her personal life, her interests include exercise, especially running and horseback riding; and spending time with her husband and two children.

  • Medical Author: Syed Shahzad Mustafa, MD
    Syed Shahzad Mustafa, MD

    After growing up in the Rochester area, Dr. Mustafa pursued his undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and attended medical school at SUNY Buffalo. He then completed his internal medicine training at the University of Colorado and stayed in Denver to complete his fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Colorado, National Jewish Health, and Children's Hospital of Denver.

  • 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

Quick Guide10 Common Allergy Causes

10 Common Allergy Causes

What are anaphylaxis symptoms and signs?

Anaphylaxis often affects two or more body systems, or it may present with just low blood pressure (hypotension), which usually occurs with a severe reaction. Although the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction usually occur within seconds to minutes after exposure to a trigger, some reactions can occur up to two hours after the exposure. Possible symptoms and signs of an anaphylactic reaction include:

Skin symptoms: itching, flushing, hives, and swelling (angioedema)

Gastrointestinal symptoms: abdominal pain, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Respiratory symptoms: nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing

Cardiovascular symptoms: dizziness, lightheadedness, fast heart rate (tachycardia), and low blood pressure

Additionally, those affected often report a "feeling of impending doom."

There is no testing to predict the severity of an anaphylactic reaction, though a previous severe reaction raises the risk of a subsequent severe reaction. Uncontrolled asthma is a consistent risk factor for severe anaphylaxis and fatal anaphylaxis. A history of environmental allergies, eczema (atopic dermatitis), or asthma may also raise the risk of anaphylaxis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016

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