Allergies and Anaphylaxis

EpiPen — The epinephrine shot that beats anaphylactic shock. Credits: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Allergies are annoying. Allergies are mostly mild. The usual responses include sneezing, coughing, or nausea (food allergy). Skin rash and hives are also common. These responses expel the allergen (the substance that triggers an allergic response) from the body. However, some allergic responses can be far worse. Allergies occur when the immune system tags a harmless substance (like a seafood dish or pollen) as a threat and reacts to it. Our immune system produces a protein called IgE, which causes an allergic response. IgE falls under a class of proteins called antibodies. Antibodies act against any alien stuff that invades the human body. When this response kicks into overdrive, it can cause anaphylaxis. Triggers like bee stings, penicillin, and peanuts can cause this reaction. Without medical aid, this can kill a person in fifteen minutes. Spotting anaphylaxis fast is of utmost importance. You must call emergency services when a person experiences these symptoms:

1. Coughs, sneezes, wheezes, and feeling of tightness in the chest

2. Skin reactions like red skin and hives. Lips may swell and eyes water.

3. Shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea

4. Weak pulse and rapid heartbeat

First aid involves a shot from an EpiPen auto-injector. It contains a substance called epinephrine that improves breathing and raises blood pressure. It reduces hives and slows a racing heart rate. Ideally, a person susceptible to anaphylaxis must keep two EpiPens: one for emergencies at home, and another to be carried when one goes outside.

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