Anaphylaxis is a sudden allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Symptoms may be mild to start, but they may become severe in minutes, or even seconds. Occasionally, the symptoms develop gradually over 24 hours. The faster the symptoms begin, the more likely it is that the reaction will be severe. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Many people who are susceptible to anaphylaxis carry emergency medicine with them.
Anaphylaxis occurs when your immune system overreacts to an allergen. Your body releases substances to protect you from the allergen. Instead those same substances cause:
Many substances can cause anaphylaxis. Sometimes the cause isn't known. Common triggers include:
Anaphylaxis is rare. The incidence of anaphylaxis may be higher in the first two decades of life. The following factors may increase your risk for anaphylaxis:
Your health care provider will perform an exam. You will be asked about any contact you may have had with possible allergens (such as food, drugs, and insect stings). Blood or urine tests, allergy tests, or other tests may also be conducted.
Get emergency medical care immediately to maintain breathing, blood pressure, and heart function, and to reverse the reaction. Your doctor may recommend oral desensitization to foods or medications to prevent future episodes.
You should receive epinephrine right away. Once at the hospital, your health care provider may give you additional drugs, including antihistamines and corticosteroids, to control symptoms and prevent delayed relapse.
For breathing trouble, health care providers may need to open the airway with an endotracheal tube and possibly connect a ventilator. Other procedures may be needed to stabilize blood pressure.
Anaphylaxis always requires emergency medical care. It should not be treated with alternative therapies. Some CAM therapies may help lessen the severity of certain allergies, but they should not be used to treat anaphylaxis. However, some herbs and supplements -- just like prescription drugs -- can cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. If you have allergies, talk to your health care provider before taking any herbs or supplements.
The following nutrients may help support your immune system and reduce allergic reactions. However, there is no scientific evidence that they help prevent anaphylaxis and should never be used as treatment for anaphylaxis. Complimentary therapies should never be used as a substitute for conventional medicine when either treating or trying to prevent anaphylaxis. People with known triggers for anaphylaxis should avoid those triggers, even if they're using CAM therapies.
Some herbs may help support your immune system. Other may reduce the frequency or severity of allergic reactions. However, there is no evidence that any herbs can prevent or treat anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Never use herbs to treat it. Do not take herbs if you are pregnant or nursing, unless you are under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Tell your health care providers about any herbal medicines you are planning to use.
Several studies suggest that medicinal plants traditionally used in Asia to prevent or treat allergic reactions may help indeed have some anti-allergic effects in vitro or in experimental animal models of allergic reactions. These herbal remedies include sweet chestnut tree (Castanea crenata), spreading sneezeweed (Centipeda minima), Asian rose (Rosa davurica), Hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata), Japanese catnip, and others.
Researchers have also tested combinations of specific herbs in animals, which show some signs of preventing anaphylaxis. One such combination of 9 traditional Chinese herbs, termed food allergy herbal formula-2 (FAHF-2) was effective in preventing peanut allergy in mice. However, no herb or herb combination has been demonstrated as effective in any human study. Herbs may also have dangerous side effects, interact with medications, or even cause allergic reactions themselves. Before taking any herbs for allergies, you should consult your provider, especially if you have a chronic condition or are pregnant.
Some people use homeopathic remedies for allergic reactions or allergic diseases. However there is no research showing effectiveness of homeopathy in preventing or treating anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis requires emergency medical treatment.
Acupuncture has been used to support the immune system and to relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies, as well as to lessen chronic allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis. Acupuncture is generally considered safe and well tolerated. However, acupuncture should never be used to treat anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention.
Without proper treatment, anaphylaxis can be deadly. However, most people who receive proper treatment do well. An episode of anaphylaxis puts you in the high risk group for recurrence. Recurrences tend to occur less and go away with time, even if the allergen is unknown. The likelihood of recurrence is higher if serious symptoms are present during the first episode.
You may need to stay in the hospital for 24 hours to make sure no new symptoms occur. For a severe reaction, your doctor may monitor heart function or admit you to the intensive care unit.
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