An anaphylactic allergic reaction is a body-wide, severe, allergic reaction to a specific substance. In addition, an anaphylactic allergic reaction typically does not occur the first time a person is exposed to that substance, especially if that substance is bee venom. It can, however, occur in reaction to repeated exposure over time, after the immune system has become sensitized to that allergen.
Since this type of allergic reaction can be life threatening if not treated within minutes, emergency intervention must be instituted within minutes or the prognosis may not be favorable. When an anaphylactic allergic reaction happens, a chemical called histamine is released in the body and can cause a person's airway to constrict, severely limiting his ability to breathe.
A variety of substances can cause an anaphylactic allergic reaction. These include bee sting venom, medications like aspirin and morphine, foods such as peanuts, and contrast dyes used in medical diagnostic tests. Sometimes, when a person is first exposed to these allergens, he can experience an anaphylactoid reaction, which is similar to an anaphylactic allergic reaction. The difference is that a true anaphylactic reaction typically does not occur after the first exposure.
Symptoms of an anaphylactic allergic reaction include the tightening of the airway, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and anxiety. In addition, symptoms such as coughing, confusion, hives, and itching can occur. Other serious signs may include cardiac arrhythimias, fast pulse, swelling of the face, throat and tongue, and low blood pressure. These signs and symptoms can cause the patient to go into shock, if he is not treated in a timely manner.
Anaphylactic allergic reactions must be treated immediately, so it is important to call 911 right away. After 911 has been called, the patient should be offered reassurance, and if he has his medication with him, such as an epinephrine injectable, help should be offered in administering the medication. If the person was stung by a bee, the stinger should be scraped off using a stiff-edged object, such as a credit card.
It is important to never give the patient experiencing a severe allergic reaction anything by mouth. This includes medications and liquids. Doing so can cause the patient to aspirate the material into his lungs and cause respiratory arrest. In addition, a person with known allergies should wear a medical alert bracelet to alert first responders of his allergy, in the event of a reaction.