Allergies are a common nuisance. We may suffer from seasonal allergies that make us sniffle. We may break out in hives when eating certain fruits. We may avoid dogs or cats so we don’t turn into red-eyed, puffy monsters.
However, if you’re like me and 45 million of other Americans, you may have an allergy that can kill you. I have a deadly allergy to bee stings. Other common and potentially fatal allergies include those to peanuts, shellfish, eggs, or some medications, like penicillin. There are even reports of rare allergies to food, light, and water.
Some of these allergies are so severe that even touching or breathing in the dust of one of these foods can prove life-threatening. One may have an allergic reaction by kissing or hugging a friend or loved one who recently ate the food they’re allergic to.
Now what happens to the body when one is exposed to their specific allergen? It first sets off a chain reaction in your body by triggering immune cells to go into attack mode. You body then pumps out high-alert chemicals that triggers a condition called anaphylaxis.
If you’re going through an anaphylactic reaction you may get:
- Hives, swelling, or itching
- Pale or clammy skin
- Shortness of breath or feelings of chest tightness, your aways may begin to narrow and clamp off if you’re not careful.
- Cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- A sudden drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
If you or a loved one is having an allergic reaction to food or to a bee sting and shows signs of shock from anaphylaxis, act fast! If there is an EpiPen nearby, use it right away.
EpiPens are basically a shot of epinephrine, a neurotransmitter that stops the anaphylactic reaction. It constricts blood vessels, reverse hives, relaxes muscles in the lungs, and stimulates the heartbeat. You can follow the instructions on the pen, but it’s always best to learn how to use an EpiPen beforehand. If you have an EpiPen, you should teach friends and family around you how to use it, just in case.
The pen doesn’t cure you, but only buys you time. The effects may only last for 15-20 minutes. Call 911 for emergency help immediately or go to an emergency room. While at the hospital, the physician will monitor you and make sure the anaphylaxis has completely gone away. Make sure you remember to get a prescription for another EpiPen.