On many occasions and for reasons unknown at the time, we suffer from an allergic reaction , which almost immediately puts our lives at risk, and at that moment we are suffering from anaphylactic shock .

In the following article, we talk about this severe anaphylactic reaction, why it happens and how to deal with it.

What is an anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock or anaphylactic shock as it is also often called, is a critical condition that causes a sudden drop in blood flow , the cause of which is derived from a severe allergic reaction due to involuntary contact with a substance that causes allergy.

Note: Anaphylactic shock causes a series of allergic diseases such as dermatitis, asthma, hives or rhinitis as the most common.

The main cause is that mast cells release histamine, one of the mediators of anaphylactic shock. Histamine is responsible for the inflammatory process of the patient mucosa.

Statistics regarding the frequency of this condition are not defined, since it does not represent a notifiable disease , but it is estimated between 0.05 and 2% where all etiologies are included.

What causes an anaphylactic shock?

Most of the causes that cause anaphylaxis are of exogenous origin, which we indicate below:

1. Medicines

There are many people with hypersensitivity to certain medications that, once administered, trigger a series of reactions in the immune system causing a sudden allergic reaction.

The most common medications that can cause anaphylactic reactions are beta-lactam antibiotics, tetracyclines, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, among others.

Cases of anaphylaxis have also been reported during the administration of anesthetics in surgical interventions.

Important: Before taking any medication, you should notify your doctor if you have had any allergic reactions while taking some drugs.

2. Food

Another very common cause in the appearance of anaphylaxis is the consumption of food and they represent the first cause of allergies in children and the second in adults.

The most common foods that can cause an episode of anaphylaxis are fish, dairy products, shellfish, some nuts such as peanuts, cereals, fruits and vegetables, chocolate and eggs.

Note: It is important to avoid allergenic products , since it is the only preventive measure to avoid anaphylaxis and possible anaphylactic shock.

3. Insect bites

Also the venom of insect bites is another very common cause of anaphylaxis, specifically of those insects belonging to the Hymenoptera .

This group includes spiders, bees, wasps and ants , which is why it is advisable to carry antihistamine medications and adrenaline in ampoules during field trips.

4. Inhaled allergens

Anaphylaxis is also caused by inhalation through the respiratory tract of allergy-causing agents suspended in the atmosphere in the form of gases, dusts, or particles.

Note: Such is the case for aerosolized food particles, pollen, animal dander, chemical allergens, or pollen.

5. Latex

This type of anaphylaxis is very common in the health system. The use of surgical gloves made of latex material causes an immune system reaction to the proteins found in this product.

Important: A severe allergic response to latex can affect breathing and other vital life-sustaining processes.

Anaphylaxis can also occur when in contact with balloons, condoms and diaphragms, rubber bands, shoe soles, bandages, among others.

6. Diseases

One of the diseases that trigger anaphylaxis is mastocytosis. This disease is very rare and whose name comes from mast cells, cells that come from the bone marrow and that participate in allergic inflammation processes.

The cause of mastocytosis is that under certain circumstances, there is an exaggerated increase in mast cells in the body, causing anaphylaxis with a possible fatal outcome.

Important: It is necessary to have antihistamines and adrenaline ampoules in those cases where we find people who are sensitized to an allergic component.

What are the symptoms of anaphylactic shock?

In most cases, anaphylaxis causes a systemic reaction that usually adjusts to the characteristics of the allergen that causes it, however, the following symptoms occur more regularly:

1. Cold skin, paleness and sweating

As we have already mentioned, anaphylactic shock causes vasodilation and increased vascular permeability.

This response causes skin symptoms in the patient such as loss of temperature becoming cold and little blood flow in the capillaries of the skin causing loss of natural color and also an increase in sweat through the sweat glands.

2. Difficulty breathing

Another characteristic of anaphylaxis is the edema it causes in the mucous membranes, including the respiratory tract. This reaction usually happens within a few minutes of coming into contact with the allergen.

Note: It is important to identify these symptoms as it is necessary to get the patient to an emergency room quickly.

3. Gastrointestinal discomfort

If it is the sudden appearance of symptoms such as cramps, vomiting or abdominal pain after involuntary contact with an allergen, we may be in the presence of anaphylaxis.

To highlight: These types of symptoms appear from mild to severe , depending on the patient’s sensitivity and the concentration of the allergic substance to which contact was made.

4. Hypotension and tachycardia

Hypotension and sudden increase in heart rate are other symptoms of anaphylaxis that are among the most serious, since they directly affect the cardiovascular system and cause a drop in blood pressure.

Important: Anaphylaxis causes the heart to race , trying to pump more blood to the organs to oxygenate them. Diagnosis is made by evaluating vital signs.

5. Loss of consciousness

Another symptom of anaphylaxis is usually loss of consciousness due to lack of cerebral oxygenation.

As already mentioned, this shock is characterized by decreased blood flow from the heart and lungs to the different organs of the patient, including the brain.

6. Heart failure

In the above context, the heart can no longer efficiently pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, with the risk of heart failure.

In these cases, the diagnosis is reserved for the patient, which requires immediate medical attention.

Note: Anaphylactic shock occurs abruptly and suddenly , representing a fatal risk for the patient. This is how anaphylaxis is considered as a generalized allergic response in various parts of the body.

How is the treatment for anaphylactic shock?

Below we describe the steps you should follow, in case you are affected by an element that causes allergies or you have the presence of a patient who is suffering from anaphylaxis:

1. Avoid the element that causes the reaction

The first preventive measure that should be indicated to patients to avoid anaphylaxis is to avoid contact with the allergen that triggers this immune response at all costs.

Important: Awareness and proper handling of information is necessary , about the consequences that result from intentional exposure to elements that cause danger to health such as allergens.

2. Reassure the affected person

These states of hypotension generate anxiety in patients, so it is important to let them know what they are going through and emphasize that they are being treated quickly and in a timely manner, in the search for their peace of mind.

This strategy is part of the treatment for the initial approach . If this is not achieved, the patient may go into a more serious state due to her emotional disturbance.

3. Check the person’s breathing and vital signs

Before administering any medication to someone who suffers from anaphylaxis, it is important to know the values ​​of their signs and from there propose an intervention strategy.

Having information on blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate and body temperature, will be able to give you information on the state in which the patient is and his evolution during the administration of drugs.

4. Use the emergency kit if you have it

As a preventive measure for patients who are aware of their sensitivity to certain allergens, they should carry self-injectable adrenaline, a medication indicated for the immediate treatment of anaphylaxis. The dose must be indicated by a specialist.

Adrenaline produces bronchodilation in the mucosa of the respiratory tract, essential to open the airway, which may be compromised in the case of anaphylactic shock.

Note: Remember that you may only have a few minutes to attend to the patient in this condition until you can be seen by a specialist doctor.

Remember that the basic rule is prevention , either to avoid contact with the allergic substance or to have the necessary drugs available to treat the allergy immediately.

5. Give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR if necessary

If the patient has very severe respiratory failure due to anaphylaxis and does not have mechanical ventilation mechanisms, it is important to apply first aid and in this case mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Another strategy is Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR, a life- saving technique that is used in emergency situations when a patient stops breathing or their heart stops beating.

Note: The CPR technique combines chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

6. Seek medical help quickly

Assistance to a patient with an anaphylactic syndrome must undoubtedly be carried out by personnel specialized in medicine. Do not hesitate at any time to seek professional help to treat this condition.

Remember that symptoms may worsen over time , or if you think you have the patient stabilized, shock may suddenly return after a few hours.

Important: Call the emergency service, who are the most competent personnel and also have the necessary equipment to deal with this type of situation.

Key Conclusions

  • Anaphylactic shock is characterized by a sudden drop in blood flow to the organs.
  • If not treated promptly there is a risk of death.
  • The main drug to use is adrenaline.
  • The main preventive measure is to avoid contact with the allergen that causes anaphylaxis.

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