Anaphylaxis - Symptoms and Signs

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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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: nuni71, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 13

I have had 3 anaphylactic reactions that required medical intervention but 3 in-between that were dealt with differently. My first reaction was after eating fish tacos (I had eaten fish my whole life). It started with flushing across my whole body, feet itching, then itching in mouth, ears and throat. I drove myself to the closest emergency room (ER) and passed out when I walked in. I had severe diarrhea, blood pressure was low, but pulse rate high. I was give IV epinephrine, steroid and prednisone. Then I had a couple episodes that started with just the flushing, diarrhea, and slight itching but did not feel like throat was closing. Once was after eating fries, once after ribs and third time with skin testing in allergist's office. They think there could have been cross contact with first two, but allergist thought it was a vasovagal response, and then sent me to cardiologist for every possible test. Heart is fine. Next I drank tea, (it had tuna oil added in it that I was unaware of) then started again; diarrhea, flushing, throat itching and was taken to the ER and given epinephrine, etc. Four days later while driving, it started again. I had not eaten anything. I was taken by ambulance to ER and they think possible rebound reaction to the one 4 days prior. All RAST (radioallergosorbenttest) and skin tests came back negative, even though I had symptoms during the skin tests (just no raised bumps). I am terrified to eat, and feel like no doctor so far has been helpful in determining what this is.

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Comment from: perfectionist, (Patient) Published: July 20

Several months ago while in a meeting my scalp started itching like crazy. I also got very hot, but nothing else happened; I drank some water and had no more symptoms. Today around noon my scalp started itching like crazy again. The palms of my hands also. I decided to take a shower and wash my hair, hoping that would help. By that time my skin on my arms and stomach was itching; I took a brush to them. I got out of shower, dried off, and was still itching and had profuse sweating. I fell to the floor, sweat pouring out of me. I got up, my eyes were swollen shut, face fire red, and tongue swollen. I had a little diarrhea, vomited a little. I lay for half hour in my sweat. I sat up, and passed out. Entire episode lasted an hour and a half. I have no allergies, except poison ivy. Breakfast was a half cup of coffee, a cup of chocolate milk, and a small amount of oatmeal. After breakfast, I did take an Alieve for a sinus headache.

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