Theoretically, almost any protein substance can provoke anaphylaxis.
However, the most common causes of anaphylactic shock are:
- Foods, such as peanuts
- Tree nuts, particularly almond, walnut, hazel, Brazil, and cashew nuts
- Shellfish, especially shrimp and lobster
- Dairy products
- Insect stings, such as wasps, bees, ants
Less common causes of anaphylaxis include:
- Exercise, after consumption of an allergy-provoking food.
Anaphylaxis usually occurs within minutes of exposure to the allergen and almost always within two hours. The most severe cases may be fatal within a few minutes of exposure. Sometimes symptoms may disappear and then return later.
If administered in time, an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) may arrest the progression of anaphylaxis by quickly constricting blood vessels to help circulation, stopping swelling around the face and throat, and relaxing smooth muscles in the lungs to open up the airways. Because anaphylaxis can progress so quickly, the first signs of reaction should be taken seriously. Do not wait to see how serious the reaction may become: Call for emergency help immediately (call 911 in the U.S.) and administer epinephrine if appropriate. Delayed administration of epinephrine has been shown to be most important determining factor for poor patient outcomes with anaphylatic reactions. Immediate treatment can help ensure full recovery.
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