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Anaphylactic shock: Understanding the causes and symptoms

Anaphylaxis shock is a serious and potentially life-threatening syndrome that is brought on by an allergic reaction to a substance. A large number of people confuse the phrases anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock, which are both used to refer to the same event. Anaphylactic shock, on the other hand, is a complication of anaphylaxis that develops when the blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels and the blood has difficulty circulating.

The immune system of a person becomes overreactive to an innocuous substance known as an allergen, resulting in the development of an allergy. As a result of this reaction, the body releases chemicals that cause inflammation and other symptoms to appear. Allergic reactions are usually mild, resulting in symptoms such as a rash or a runny nose.

When a person’s immune system responds to an allergen in a dramatic manner, it may release chemicals that affect a number of different body systems at the same time. This has the potential to cause anaphylaxis in the individual. The symptoms of anaphylaxis might include anaphylactic shock in some persons.

Important information to know about anaphylactic shock:

  • Anaphylactic shock, like anaphylaxis, is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
  • Anaphylactic shock can occur in those who have had a history of anaphylactic responses in the past.
  • If you’ve ever experienced an anaphylactic response, you should always keep an epinephrine injector on you at all times.


breathing difficulties
Among the possible signs of anaphylactic shock include difficulty breathing and swelling of the throat.

A food allergy or being exposed to something that causes anaphylaxis usually results in symptoms within a few minutes for the majority of people.

Symptoms appear less frequently few hours after the onset of the condition. The following are the most common symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction:

  • nose, mouth, skin, or stomach irritation, such as a rash, diarrhea, or congestion
  • breathing difficulties or wheezing
  • low blood pressure that can cause fainting, dizziness, or confusion
  • swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat
  • swollen lips
  • a choking sensation or trouble swallowing

Aside from anaphylaxis, some persons experience anaphylactic shock as a side effect.

While in anaphylactic shock, an individual will have symptoms such as low blood pressure and poor oxygen delivery to their organs.

An individual suffering from anaphylactic shock may also feel loss of consciousness, loss of bowel and bladder function, and chest pain.

Anaphylactic shock reactions are comparable to other types of medical shock in that they are life-threatening. Anaphylaxis may be difficult to distinguish from other causes of shock in someone who is experiencing a severe allergic reaction while in a life-threatening scenario. The condition, on the other hand, is easily identified in the majority of patients because they have just been exposed to an allergen.

Early signs

The earliest symptoms of anaphylactic shock are variable and may appear to be rather minor at first. Hives, itching, and a dreadful feeling are all possible symptoms.

People who have a history of severe allergic reactions sometimes have the same pattern of symptoms each time they are exposed to an allergen.

The following are examples of early warning symptoms that a person is about to go into anaphylactic shock:

  • turning blue or white
  • swelling of lips or face
  • grating, grainy cough
  • wheezing
  • breathing problems
  • hives, particularly if over several areas


An EpiPen
An EpiPen is a medication that is commonly used to treat anaphylactic shock.

If you or someone you know is suffering from anaphylaxis, you should seek immediate medical attention.

These injectors, which are also known as EpiPens, contain a single dose of the hormone epinephrine.

Epinephrine works by reversing the action of chemicals that are created as a result of an allergic reaction. As well, it can either stop or reverse the process of shock if it has already begun.

The EpiPen is a medication that is injected straight into the thigh and is only available with a prescription from a doctor if you have an allergic reaction.

An anaphylactic response should be reported immediately to 911 by anyone who is suffering or suspects they are having one.

It is not safe to treat anaphylaxis at home or to have someone drive you to the emergency room. If a person fails to get care on time, it may be fatal. The administration of epinephrine is always the first step in the treatment process.

If a person suffers from severe anaphylactic shock, they may require extra treatment. Therapies and drugs such as the ones listed below may be included:

  • administration of oxygen therapy
  • intubation with a tube hooked to a machine to help with breathing
  • beta-agonist injection to reduce swelling in the respiratory tract
  • antihistamines to reduce the severity of the allergic reaction
  • vasopressors to narrow blood vessels and raise blood pressure if it becomes dangerously low
  • corticosteroids to help block allergic reactions and reduce swelling
  • IV fluids for low blood pressure

It is critical for persons who have had a history of anaphylactic reactions to understand which drugs or allergies cause their symptoms to flare up.

In most cases, a doctor will recommend that you get tested for allergies. This is due to the fact that persons who have had anaphylactic reactions to one chemical are more likely to have severe allergic reactions to other allergens in the future. Avoiding certain allergens can literally save your life.

It is possible that people who are allergic to chemicals that cannot be avoided, such as insect stings, will be able to avoid anaphylaxis with the use of allergy therapy.

Desensitization, also known as immunotherapy or allergy shots, is a process in which a person is exposed to small doses of an allergen over time in order to lower the likelihood of having an allergic reaction.

People can request a referral to an allergist, who will determine whether or not desensitisation is a viable choice for them.

Underlying causes

As a result of allergies, some people experience anaphylactic responses. It is the body’s ability to make proteins that can combat hazardous intruders such as viruses and bacteria that is a source of pride.

The immune system of an allergic person responds to innocuous substances by producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) proteins. These compounds stimulate white blood cells known as mast cells to release certain chemicals, most typically histamines, which are responsible for an allergic reaction in some people.

It is true that some allergens are more prone than others to trigger a reaction of this nature.

The following are examples of common allergens:

  • insect stings
  • foods, including peanuts, walnuts, shellfish, and eggs
  • latex
  • medications, including penicillin, some anesthesia, and aspirin

An anaphylactic reaction, on the other hand, might be triggered by any substance that a person is allergic to.

When to visit a doctor

It is essential to see a doctor after experiencing an anaphylactic reaction for the first time. This may entail obtaining a prescription for an EpiPen as well as determining the likelihood of future reactions.

People who are already aware that they have an allergy should also see a doctor after every anaphylactic event they experience. They should consult with a doctor about contingency plans in the event of an emergency in the future.

An individual who is experiencing anaphylaxis should treat it as a medical emergency and dial 911 immediately.

EpiPen users should administer epinephrine to themselves as quickly as possible before seeking medical attention at the nearest emergency department.


Anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock are serious medical conditions that can result in death. A person may become unable to breathe if they do not receive early treatment. If someone is unable to breathe for an extended period of time, it is possible that they will suffer brain damage.

Some persons who suffer from anaphylaxis may also experience a second allergy illness known as a biphasic reaction.

This subsequent allergic reaction can occur anywhere between 12 and 72 hours following the initial allergic reaction.

People who have experienced anaphylaxis should be closely monitored in the hours following their episode in case they develop a biphasic response.

The biphasic reaction is normally less severe than the initial reaction, though it can be life-threatening in some circumstances.


Anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock are both life-threatening crises that must be treated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. If a person suddenly experiences trouble breathing or looks to be choking, it is important to examine the likelihood of an allergic reaction.

It is possible to save lives by acting quickly to prevent anaphylactic shock and other problems. People who suffer from allergies can lead normal lives if they carry an EpiPen and create an emergency allergy plan in advance.

Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.