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What are the Different Anaphylactic Shock Symptoms?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening allergic reaction to a substance. People often think of it as a reaction to certain medicines or food substances like penicillin or peanuts, but it can actually occur under a variety of circumstances, though it generally doesn’t occur until at least second exposure. The condition usually occurs suddenly and unexpectedly, and can’t be predicted with great regularlity because the person will have had no reaction to the first substance exposure. On the other hand, some people accidentally come into contact with something to which they’re allergic and know in advance they may encounter anaphylactic shock symptoms.

It’s important for all people to recognize anaphylactic shock symptoms. The odds of encountering someone experiencing this at some point in life are high, and a number of people may develop life-threatening allergies during their lifetime.

Most anaphylactic shock symptoms occur within a half hour to hour after exposure, though some people can have reactions that are immediate and that depend on the strength of the body’s reaction. One of the first symptoms is an uncomfortable sensation of warmth, which may quickly spread through the body. This may be accompanied by itchiness that appears to be everywhere. Many people develop a rash, most commonly hives, which may be diffuse. Another feeling described in the early part of a reaction is a sense of anxiety or dread.

As anaphylactic shock symptoms progress, there may be noted swelling of the face, lips or tongue. People may have difficulty breathing, and many wheeze or develop asthma. Some develop abdominal symptoms that could include stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Those having a reaction also could be altered mentally, and they might exhibit confusion, trouble talking, and speech that is slurred, along with symptoms like feeling faint, or being dizzy and light-headed.

The big goal with anaphylactic shock symptoms is that they not be allowed to progress farther. If they do, they can result in irregular heart rhythms, total compromise of the airways, unconsciousness, coma and even death. The early symptoms need to be recognized and if no treatment is on hand, medical emergency services should be immediately contacted. Giving injections of epinephrine may help end an episode of shock in its early stages, but many people, even if they’re prepared, need to follow up with a doctor after initial treatment.

The need for prompt treatment of anaphylactic shock symptoms cannot be overemphasized. With such treatment, most will recover easily. Lack of appropriate medical measures can cause serious complications or be life-threatening. Those who know they’re at risk for these dangerous reactions should carry allergy kits with them at all times.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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