Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction that occurs after exposure to an allergen. Examples of these allergens are foods, drugs such as penicillin and insect stings. Some people have forms of anaphylaxis that originate from an abnormality of mast cells that reside in the body. The result is mast cell release of their chemicals that can trigger anaphylaxis.
Symptoms that occur as a result of anaphylaxis include hives, swelling, asthma, nasal allergies, vomiting, throat closure and potentially shock due to low blood pressure.
Allergy skin testing is performed to detect potential allergic triggers of anaphylaxis. Blood work can be helpful in identifying allergies and other abnormalities of the immune system. Skin testing to penicillin can be performed when penicillin allergy history is present.
Treatment of anaphylaxis involves avoiding the allergic trigger when possible. The primary medical management is injectable adrenaline, or epinephrine. There are auto-injectors available for patients to carry and use during an anaphylactic reaction.