ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Anaphylactic Shock,Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on September 9, 2013

Anaphylactic Shock,Symptoms and Treatment


Anaphylactic shock is a sudden, severe allergic reaction usually characterized by a significant reduction in blood pressure, urticaria, and breathing complications that is caused by exposure to a foreign substance, such as a drug or bee venom, after an introductory or sensitizing exposure. The reaction can be dangerous if the patient is not attended to urgently with epinephrine injections. It is also commonly known as anaphylactic reaction or anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reaction is the most dangerous of all the allergic reactions. It is a kind of reaction that involves the entire body system. A normal allergic reaction usually cause itching or probably some wheezing in the lungs but an anaphylactic reaction will cause both or a blend of several symptoms thus making it more deadly.

Common Causes

A wide range of triggers can bring about this form of reaction. Major causes of anaphylactic reaction can be clearly classified into three categories; food, drugs and venom. However, the relative importance of this varies greatly with age, with food being predominantly important in children and medical products affecting older people.

  1. 1. Drug allergies

Since anaphylaxis is a form of reaction, various people may have different reaction when they take some drugs. When these drugs are taken, they trigger the tissues in different parts of the body to produce a hormone called histamine. It is the effect of this histamine that culminates into anaphylactic reaction.

Drugs that have been known to cause this reaction include; antibiotics like penicillin, ciprofloxacin and cephalosporin; local anesthetics like suxamethonium and atracurium drugs prepared from animals, such as insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone and enzymes; diagnostic agents, such as iodinated x-ray contrast media; biological used to provide immunity, such as vaccines, antitoxins and gamma globulin.

Some drugs like morphine, x-ray dye, and aspirin might cause an anaphylactic-like reaction (anaphylactoid reaction) when people are first exposed to them. Although these reactions are not the same as the immune system response that occurs with real anaphylaxis the signs, possibility of complications and medication are the same for both types of reaction.

  1. 2. Food allergies

Some food stuffs have been known to trigger anaphylactic shock. Among these nuts like peanuts, almond and walnut are the most common causes. Others include fish, grape, nectarine and strawberry.

  1. 3. Venom

This normally comes from stings of insects like bees and wasps. The venom in these stings is discovered as a foreign body making the body’s immune system to produce histamine as a defensive mechanism.

Anaphylactic and other diseases

There are a number of conditions that can increase the risk or severity of anaphylaxis. This include

  • Asthma - Poorly controlled asthma has been interconnected to fatal anaphylaxis in adolescents and young adults.
  • Cardiovascular diseases pose a great danger for anaphylaxis especially for elderly people.
  • Mastocytosis - A disease that makes the body to overproduce mast cells (the cells that release histamine in an allergic reaction).
  • Some medications may inhibit epinephrine. Persons at risk for anaphylaxis are advised to talk to their respective doctors about the supplementary medications they should take.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Since this is originally an allergic reaction, for it to be identified then allergic symptoms need to be checked. These symptoms may vary from one individual to another depending on the level of exposure to the allergic substance and the body’s immune system reaction. The symptoms can develop quickly in minute or may be gradual. They include the following;

v Skin reactions

This allergic reaction is characterized by release of histamine as a defensive mechanism for the body. Histamine dilates the blood vessels resulting in itching, flaking and reddening of the skin. Sometime hives, which are reddish pink, can rise up causing swelling under the skin. Irritants like chemicals or detergents cause hives.

v Increased Gastric Secretions

Specialized cells in the stomach, called parietal cells, discharge hydrochloric acid. An increase in the level of hydrochloric acid leads to ulcers and irritation. Mast cells also exist in the lining of the stomach and contain H2 receptors. Histamine has an effect on parietal cells, combined with other enzymes, results in rising levels of gastric secretions.

v Breathing problems

Histamine produced during the reaction of the body to the allergic item causes the smooth muscle around the bronchi or airway passages in the lungs to contract thus constricting the flow of air. This results in breathing problems, which is associated with chest discomfort or tightness and wheezing. This is somehow evident in asthma victims.

v Diarrhea

As a result of the constriction of smooth intestinal muscles caused by histamine, there is an increase in peristalsis. This increased level of peristalsis can easily cause diarrhea.

v Abdominal pains

Histamine is released from inflammatory cells and binds to specific receptors in the membrane of intramuscular, free nerve endings (nociceptors). This makes the nociceptors to be excited which leads to pain in the muscles that support and move the skeleton.

Other common symptoms are abnormal heart rhythm, mental confusion, weaknesses, and difficulty in swallowing, vomiting and dizziness.

Treatment of Anaphylaxis

Epinephrine is considered an essential drug for the treatment of an anaphylactic reaction. An epinephrine auto-injector is a drug form of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone that the body produces in emergencies. It increases heart rate and unlocks the airways and blood vessels enabling the patient to breathe better and allow efficient blood circulation. Epinephrine is a logical treatment and there is consistent reliable evidence supporting its use to ease breathing difficulty and restore adequate cardiac output. The patient is advised to lie down and stay horizontally after an admission of epinephrine.

Antihistamines also compliment epinephrine in the treatment for an anaphylactic reaction. Despite the evidence supporting their use being weak there are logical reasons for them.

Antihistamines counter histamine-induced vasodilation

and bronchoconstriction. They may not help in reactions depending in part on other

mediators but they have the virtue of safety. Used alone, they are unlikely to save lives

in a true anaphylactic reaction.

Prevention Measures

  • Avoid triggers such as foods and medications that have caused an allergic reaction in the past. Always be inquisitive on the type of diet available in case you are eating away from home. Ingredients need to be studied before any preparation of meals.
  • Parents with allergic children should introduce certain foods one at a time in small amounts to monitor the allergic reaction.
  • Patients with serious allergic reactions to wear medical ID tags.
  • Carrying of emergency medications like chewable form of diphenhydramine and injectable epinephrine


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)