Health Library

Health Library

Anaphylaxis

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also called anaphylactic shock, is a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction to an allergen. (The items that your child is allergic to are called allergens.) It is a medical emergency, in most cases. The reaction to the allergen can occur seconds to as long as an hour after the exposure. It is necessary to have come in contact with the allergen at a previous time for sensitization to occur.

What causes anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is caused by exposure to an allergen. The type of allergen may be different for every child. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Medications, such as penicillin

  • Foods

  • Dyes used for medical procedures

  • Allergy injections

  • Insect stings

  • Latex

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

The following are the most common symptoms of anaphylaxis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Tightness or swelling of the throat

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing

  • Uneasy sensation or agitation

  • Generalized hives

  • Severe itching of the skin

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Stomach pain

  • Heart failure

  • Irregular heartbeats

  • Lowered blood pressure

The symptoms of anaphylaxis may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child needs immediate medical attention. Your child's doctor will probably treat him or her with an injection of epinephrine, which will help stop the severe effects caused by the allergen. If your child does have an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen, his or her doctor may instruct you on the use of an emergency kit that contains epinephrine to have near your child in case of future episodes. Discuss this with your child's doctor.

Anaphylaxis - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: Haines, Cynthia, M.D.
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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