Allergic Reactions

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , /

We’ve all heard stories of people who have
died suddenly from a severe allergic reaction, and these stories are frightening. Fortunately,
events like this are very rare, with less than 1500 deaths from all age groups and all
types of allergies in the United States. Statistically this is a very small number compared to approximate
50 million Americans that suffer from some form of allergy. Unfortunately, recent studies show that allergies
of all kinds are increasing in developed countries. Nobody knows for sure why, but one prominent
theory is that we’ve developed too clean of a lifestyle. With the constant use of anti-bacterial
soap, hand sanitizers and air-tight modern homes our body’s immune systems are not developing
and fighting germs in the same way as they did in the past. This can lead to over-reactive
immune systems. Finding a balance between healthy living and clean living is a must. Other theories include over-use of antibiotics,
excessive immunizations, highly processed foods, and environmental pollutants that have
all led to the breakdown and confusion of the body’s natural immune systems. Whatever the cause, the reality is that more
people are developing allergies than ever before and we need to be prepared to handle
emergencies from allergic reactions. Food and insect allergies are the most common
causes of severe reactions that happen outside of the hospital, with food allergies being
the most prevalent. Children tend to be the most affected. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention between 1997 and 2007, in the United States, the number
of children that have food allergies rose 18 percent. Fortunately, most children outgrow
food allergies by adulthood. Although, peanut allergies tend to be lifelong. You might be thinking, what causes an allergy
to develop? The immune system normally defends the body against things that can be dangerous
to your health, such as viruses and bacteria. A healthy immune system keeps a person from
getting sick when harmful germs find their way into the body by attacking and destroying
the germs. An allergy results when the immune system
mistakenly targets and overreacts by attacking a normally harmless substance that has been
eaten, inhaled, injected, or contacted the skin. This substance that causes an allergy
is called an allergen. An allergen may have been introduced to the
body many times before with no trouble, but at some point, for some reason, the body flags
it as an invader and triggers the immune system to attack the allergen. The body will remember
that specific allergen by producing antibodies that will be ready to go into action to attack
if the allergen enters the body in the future. This is the reason that an allergic reaction
is often more severe the second or third time it happens. When the immune system attacks an allergen,
high quantities of histamine and other chemicals are released into surrounding tissues. Depending
on the part of the body involved, the histamine and chemicals cause itching, hives, rash,
sneezing, wheezing, swelling, runny nose, nausea, etc… A serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening
is called anaphylaxis. This is a severe, sudden reaction that affects many parts of the body
all at once. It typically begins within minutes after an allergen is introduced to the body. This severe allergic reaction can cause the
blood vessels all over the body to dilate (in other words, open all the way up) and
cause Anaphylactic Shock. The full opening up of the blood vessels causes a sudden drop
in blood pressure, and the brain and other vital organs become oxygen-starved. Anaphylactic
shock will cause death if not treated. The treatment is epinephrine, which helps constrict
the blood vessels and open up the airways. The most common things that cause anaphylaxis
are: Foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish,
eggs and milk Biting or stinging insects such as bees
Latex Medications Food is generally the most common cause of
anaphylaxis, with peanuts being the most common cause of fast, severe and life-threatening
reactions. Because severe nut allergies tend to affect children, a lot of fear is associated
with nut allergies. It has become a very popular and emotional topic. This is the reason many
schools, airlines, food manufacturers and other places have become nut-free zones. More effective than banning nuts completely,
there are precautions public facilities can and should practice, such as having nut free
tables at lunch for children to eat. Most importantly, children need to be taught what
foods to avoid. Children with allergies need to carry an epipen. Schools, daycares, camps,
and other places that typically serve food to children should have epipens for emergencies. Preventing an emergency is the best. But,
if an emergency happens, you need to know how to recognize it and be prepared to handle
it. The following signs and symptoms would indicate
a person is going into anaphylactic shock: Trouble breathing
Wheezing Tightness of the throat
Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue Hives
Itching, flushed or pale skin Rapid heart beat
Low blood pressure Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
Dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness Children may describe their symptoms in the
following way: It feels like something is poking my tongue
My tongue is tingling My mouth itches
My tongue feels like there is hair on it My mouth feels funny
There’s something stuck in my throat My lips feel tight
My body feels weird all over If you recognize any of the signs and symptoms
of anaphylaxis, don’t wait for signs and symptoms to get worse. Call 911 immediately.
If it is available, assist with or administer autoinjectable epinephrine, such as an epipen.
Keep the person calm while waiting for the ambulance
Let the person sit in the position that is easiest to breath. Typically, this is sitting
up and leaning forward. If the person feels faint or is not fully
conscious, lie the person down, elevate the legs and keep the person warm.
Talk to the person to reassure them Keep the person’s airway open, monitor the
breathing and be prepared to start CPR if the person stops breathing and becomes unresponsive.

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