Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

Allergies come in different sizes and shapes. There’s the runny-nose-bleary-eye version or the tickly-throat-itchy-eye kind – even the bumpy-itchy-red-skin variety. And then there’s anaphylaxis (ann’-a-phil ax’-sis).

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that affects two or more parts of the body at once, including your skin, mouth, stomach, lungs or heart. Often it occurs as a series of reactions – skin-related symptoms such as hives and swelling may appear first, followed by internal symptoms. But anaphylaxis can also occur without any skin symptoms at all.

Anaphylaxis is most often caused by exposure to:

Foods, especially peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk and eggs

Stinging insects such as bees,wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants

Latex, which can be found in household items from elastic waistbands to kitchen gloves

Medications such as antibiotics, seizure medications, muscle relaxants and aspirin

Exercise, especially associated with food allergy or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Anyone can develop a severe allergic reaction at any time. However, people with a history of allergies, asthma or eczema are at greater risk for anaphylaxis than other people. And someone who has had anaphylactic symptoms at least once is more likely to have another anaphylactic reaction.

Recognizing anaphylaxis can be tricky because no two episodes are alike and some symptoms of anaphylaxis mimic symptoms of other illnesses. In addition, anaphylaxis often hits people who are not expecting it, either because it’s the first time they’ve ever had an allergic reaction or they don’t know they’ve been exposed to allergens.

The key to preventing serious problems from anaphylaxis – including death – is using epinephrine as soon as possible. In fact, virtually all deaths associated with anaphylaxis occur because epinephrine is not administered in time.

People at risk for anaphylaxis should carry auto-injectable epinephrine with them at all times – carry two, in case symptoms recur before you can get medical help. Keep them in your home, office, school or anywhere else you spend a lot of time.

Parents of young children with life-threatening allergies should make sure teachers and caregivers have epinephrine auto-injectors on hand and know how to use them. Teach children about their symptoms, medications and when to ask for help.

Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACEs) – Coming soon to a community center near you!

AANMA has partnered with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), with sponsorship by Mylan Specialty, to match allergists with community volunteers in a new grassroots initiative. ACEs teams are bringing anaphylaxis awareness and education into schools and day-care centers, fire stations and clinics, at PTA and Scout meetings – places many of us go.

Read a press release about the ACEs program