Shock is a clinical term used when the vital organs of the body do not receive sufficient amount of blood flow to sustain their normal function. Anaphylactic shock is life threatening condition resulting from an allergic reaction. It is an acute condition in which the blood pressure severely drops accompanied with troubled breathing.
Anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction can occur within few minutes after the person is exposed to a particular allergen (allergy producing substance). The most common substances known to cause anaphylaxis are medicines, insect bites or certain foods.
Anaphylactic shock is an emergency and it needs immediate treatment as delay in treatment can lead to complication and sometimes it can be fatal.
What Causes Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction to a substance. This substance is known as an allergen. Allergy can develop when the immune system recognizes a substance as harmful although it may not be so to many other people. In other words it is an overreaction of the immune system. During the allergic reaction the immune system releases histamine, a chemical that is responsible for causing several symptoms.
Usually in milder cases the symptoms of allergic reaction are located in one particular part of the body. However, if the reaction is severe it can produce systemic calamity which can have its effect on blood pressure and respiratory tract besides other vital organs.Anaphylactic shock can develop due to any substance your body is allergic to.
The most common triggers to produce such anaphylaxis reaction are:
- Certain medicines such as penicillin, ampicillin, sulphonamides, Aspirin etc.
- Insect bites. Stings of bees, wasp and hornets.
- Foods are known to produce anaphylaxis. Peanuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, etc.
Certain people are at greater risk of developing this life threatening condition. If you are allergic to certain substance or if someone in the family has suffered from anaphylactic shock or if you are suffering from asthma, you are at greater risk of suffering from anaphylactic shock.
Signs And Symptoms Of Anaphylactic Shock
Anaphylactic shock is an acute condition. It develops within 5 to 10 minutes after a person is exposed to a substance he is allergic. In some cases the time interval between exposure to the substance and development of anaphylaxis reaction can be more than an hour.
Here are some of the prominent noticeable symptoms of anaphylactic shock. The warning signs may be in more than one body part.
- The earliest sign is on the skin which manifests as severe itching on skin, appearance of red rash and wheals. However, there is possibility of severe anaphylaxis without development of skin symptoms.
- Swelling of lips, tongue, around the eyes, and in the throat.
- Swelling in throat can lead to hoarseness of voice and difficulty in swallowing.
- Sudden feeling of warmth all over the body.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Tightness in chest
- Face turns pale
- Severe sweating
- Diarrhea and stomach cramps.
- Rapid but feeble pulse. Pulse cannot be palpated.
- Severe drop in blood pressure.
- Tingling sensation in mouth, feet and hands.
- Skin becomes cold and clammy.
- Sudden feeling of weakness.
- Loss of consciousness.
What To Do In Case Of Anaphylactic Shock?
Anaphylactic shock is an emergency. It needs immediate medical attention. Any delay can be life threatening for the patient. Person suffering from anaphylactic shock must seek immediate medical treatment. If you are a known to have previous history of anaphylaxis reaction from an allergen, always carry epinephrine auto injector. It contains prescribed amount of medicine that needs to be inserted subcutaneously anywhere such as in the thigh or in the abdomen few inches away from umbilicus. Epinephrine is a life saving drug for people having anaphylactic shock.
If the condition is occurring due to an insect bite, the stringer should be removed. Use a plastic card for removing the stringer. Avoid use of forceps to remove the stringer as it may squeeze more venom left over in the stringer.
If the blood pressure is low, raise patient’s leg to increase blood flow towards the heart.
In the hospital patient is monitored continuously. Besides epinephrine other medications such as antihistamines and cortisone are used. These medicines are given through intravenous route. Patient may also require supplemental oxygen.