Discuss the events that led to a diagnosis of anaphylaxis. Did you end up in the ER?
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How is anaphylaxis diagnosed?
If someone thinks he or she is having an anaphylactic reaction, the first order of business is to seek emergency care. Once the acute reaction has been treated, one should follow up with a doctor who will probably recommend seeing an allergist. The allergist will assess whether or not the reaction was indeed allergic in nature. Usually, a careful and detailed medical history and selected blood or skin tests can identify the cause. Be prepared to recall any activities that preceded the event, the food and medications ingested, and whether or not one had any contact with rubber products.
Two situations deserve special attention at this point since they are not covered elsewhere but are particularly interesting.
In the 1970s, it was noted that exercise could cause anaphylaxis. Exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA) usually occurs with prolonged, strenuous exercise. Conditioned athletes such as marathon runners can be affected. The reaction may occur while exercising shortly after eating a meal, after eating specific foods (for example, lettuce, shellfish, or celery), or after taking aspirin. It appears as though food or aspirin loads the gun and exercise pulls the trigger. Early symptoms are usually flushing and itching, which may progress to other typical symptoms of anaphylaxis if the exercise continues. Premedication with antihistamines or other drugs does not consistently prevent EIA. Exercise avoidance is the most effective treatment. If this is not feasible, exercising with a "buddy" and carrying emergency epinephrine kits is mandatory.
When no cause can be found for anaphylaxis, it is termed idiopathic. Recent reports suggest that 25% of all episodes of anaphylaxis are idiopathic. Many of those affected have underlying allergy or asthma conditions. Extensive allergy testing for foods may uncover an unusual food allergy that is responsible for these reactions. For frequent episodes of anaphylaxis, a physician may recommend a combination of antihistamine, cortisone, and a medication to widen the airways of the lungs (bronchial dilator) to help reduce the severity of attacks.