3 Telltale Warning Signs of Anaphylaxis to Know

Nov 14, 2023
3 Telltale Warning Signs of Anaphylaxis to Know
Most people know that anaphylaxis can cause life-threatening complications. However, the first symptoms of a problem may not seem that serious. Here are three telltale signs you shouldn’t ignore.

When you experience anaphylaxis, it means you have a sudden and severe allergic reaction involving more than one system in your body. It’s so serious that it’s considered a life-threatening medical emergency that requires attention as quickly as possible. 

Whether you know you have allergies or not, it’s crucial to learn to identify the signs of anaphylaxis so you can seek emergency care if they arise. 

You can also meet with our experts at Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Associates to identify allergies, determine your risk of anaphylaxis, and provide strategies to avoid dangerous complications in the future.

Take a moment as our team explains anaphylaxis and three telltale warning signs that everyone should know.

Understanding anaphylaxis

Allergies are a common problem, and they often come with mild — though uncomfortable — symptoms. For instance, you may have itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, or congestion

If you have anaphylaxis, you have a severe allergic reaction that involves your respiratory and circulatory system. 

It can progress rapidly to anaphylactic shock, which indicates your blood pressure starts dropping — a critical development that can cause death. That means early intervention is essential to avoid serious complications.

You can develop anaphylaxis from several triggers, but the most common causes include food allergies, insect stings, latex, and certain medications. Your chances of experiencing anaphylaxis increase if you have asthma or a history of a severe allergic reaction.

Why people miss the signs of anaphylaxis

In books, television, and movies, anaphylaxis often appears suddenly and dramatically, leaving little doubt about the gravity of the situation. In reality, however, a person may not recognize what’s happening, especially if they’ve never experienced the reaction before. 

One of the challenges with anaphylaxis is that it often occurs within 5-30 minutes of exposure to an allergen. But it can also take up to an hour or even days until issues arise. 

Some people even experience biphasic anaphylaxis. In these situations, their initial symptoms may seem mild and appear to subside. However, they return again more severely within hours or days.

Anaphylaxis can also progress quite quickly, causing collapse and loss of consciousness within 1-2 minutes.

As a result, it’s essential to learn to identify the warning signs of a problem so you can take action immediately. 

Three signs of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis moves through four stages. As you might suspect, symptoms are typically more mild in the first stage and grow more widespread and severe as they progress. By stage four, a person can lose consciousness, blood flow to vital organs, and the ability to breathe.

Three common signs of anaphylaxis involve hives, swelling, and breathing problems.

1. Redness and hives

One of the first signs of an allergic reaction involves red skin and hives. In many cases, redness starts in the cheeks, chest, or neck — a response known as “flushing.” Then, hives, itching, or rashes can develop and spread all over the body. 

2. Swelling

In addition to hives and itchy skin, anaphylaxis also causes swelling in the lips, eyes, tongue, face, throat, and other areas of the body. That’s because the body releases histamines that cause an inflammatory response in your system.

In addition to swelling, the affected areas can also turn itchy and tingly. 

3. Faintness or shortness of breath

Anaphylaxis can also cause respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms. These can make it difficult to breathe and cause dizziness, confusion, anxiety, and difficulty speaking clearly. Some people even experience an “impending feeling of doom.”

When to get help for anaphylaxis

At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry since anaphylaxis can progress rapidly. If you think you’re having a severe allergic reaction, get medical attention immediately. Taking this step can protect you from serious health complications and even save your life.

If you’ve had anaphylaxis, our team can help create long-term management strategies to avoid future issues. 

This could involve allergy testing, a prescription epinephrine auto-injector injection like an EpiPen®, strategies to reduce encounters with the allergen, or immunotherapy to desensitize you to the substance.

Do you have severe allergies? Schedule a consultation with our team at Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Associates by phone or online in Tampa or Brandon, Florida, to learn how to protect your health.