You’re having a great time on your hike--and it’s just what you needed: fresh air, lovely views, and a little bit of exercise. But then you felt a little pinch on your leg. It was probably a mosquito. But what if it was a bee? Like a lot of people, you know that you’re allergic to bees and can have a pretty serious reaction. But how do you know if you’re going into anaphylaxis?
Signs of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is a very severe, possibly life-threatening allergic reaction. Everyone’s symptoms will likely be a little bit different. But if you feel as though you’re experiencing anaphylaxis, you should not hesitate to take a dose of epinephrine (an epi-pen) and seek emergency medical care.
Some signs of anaphylaxis are obvious, such as swelling of the lips and throat. But others might be easier to miss, though the subtle symptoms tend to be less common. Knowing these signs--and noticing them--could save your life.
Sign #1: Shortness of Breath / Coughing / Wheezing:
Shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing are not uncommon symptoms of anaphylaxis, but they must be mentioned. The first signs of an anaphylactic reaction can often present like basic allergy symptoms such as a runny nose. However, more serious signs will start to appear after 30 minutes or so. There is often two or more of these symptoms present.
Sign #2: Nausea and Vomiting
Anaphylaxis can play havoc with any number of your body’s functions, digestion included. It’s not uncommon for those experiencing this severe allergic reaction to present with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you notice these symptoms in conjunction with other anaphylaxis symptoms, your body may be having a severe reaction.
Sign #3: Rashes and Hives
It’s true that rashes and hives are not uncommon to more minor allergic reactions. However, if you are experiencing widespread rashes or hives--or if those outbreaks are broadly, you will likely want to seek medical attention.
When they are widespread or seemingly random, rashes and hives can be an indication that your immune system is flooding your body indiscriminately with chemicals--which in turn causes anaphylaxis.
Sign #4: Low Blood Pressure, Dizziness, and Fainting
It’s true that, unless you happen to have a monitor with you, it may be challenging for you to check your own blood pressure. But low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be an indicator of anaphylaxis.
Low blood pressure may present as clamminess of the skin or simply as dizziness and vertigo. If you notice that you’re suffering from low blood pressure, that could be a good sign you’ve been exposed to an allergen and you’re suffering from anaphylaxis (barring any other medical cause or condition).
Low blood pressure, dizziness and fainting are not necessarily typical symptoms of anaphylaxis, although they can occur. Typically, if you feel faint or lose consciousness as part of an allergic reaction it’s because your blood pressure drops. In terms of anaphylaxis, a fainting spell or a sudden sense of vertigo will be difficult to miss!
If you’ve recently been exposed to an allergen or you’re experiencing other signs of anaphylaxis and you begin to feel faint, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. This is especially true as fainting and dizziness can cause their own medical problems (head trauma as a result of fainting, for example).
Sign #5: Fast Reactions
Anaphylaxis can occur within seconds of exposure to allergens. While such immediate responses are common, delayed reactions can and do occur. For some, the symptoms of anaphylaxis may present 20-40 minutes after your contact with an allergen. For most people, the symptoms begin mildly enough but escalate rapidly. The sooner an epinephrine injection is administered, the more quickly the medication can short circuit the anaphylactic reaction.
That said, even after you’ve administered your epi-pen, it’s essential to seek out medical treatment. In some cases, anaphylaxis patients can relapse up to twelve hours after the initial exposure.
A big thing about anaphylaxis that you need to know - there has to be 2 organ systems affected to be anaphylaxis. For example, symptoms could include hives and vomit/diarrhea OR vomiting, short of breath, and pass out, etc.
If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it is absolutely essential that you seek emergency care immediately. Even if you’ve administered both doses from your epi-pen and you’re feeling okay, an examination from a physician is the best way to ensure your symptoms don’t resurface. That’s why if you are experiencing anaphylaxis, a trip to the emergency room is almost always recommended.
If you have questions about anaphylaxis, or how you might create an anaphylaxis plan, feel free to contact our offices to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bubak. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to enjoy that hike in the countryside.