Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition which is usually triggered by a severe, total-body allergic reaction to certain foods . It requires immediate medical treatment, including an injection of adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and a call to 999.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Swollen throat or sensation of a lump in the throat, causing breathing difficulties
- Constriction and tightening of the airways
- Systemic shock and a rapid drop in blood pressure (hypotension)
- Rapid pulse and heart rate (tachycardia)
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Rash or itchy skin
- Pale, sweaty skin
- Anxiety or confusion
- Slurred speech
- Facial swelling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Late Phase (Second) Anaphylaxis Reaction
Symptoms usually occur within seconds of ingesting or other contact with the allergen, depending on the nature of your allergy and reaction. In very rare cases, anaphylaxis can occur minutes, or even hours after ingestion of the allergen. Rare cases can also involve a second anaphylactic reaction after being treated for the initial one, without further exposure to the allergen (usually peanuts in these cases). This is known as ‘delayed’ or ‘late phase’ (biphasic) anaphylaxis . FA sufferers are more likely to have a delayed anaphylactic reaction if:
- they have a severe peanut allergy
- they do not receive a rapid or large enough dose of epinephrine (adrenaline)
- they did not respond quickly to the initial treatment of epinephrine
- they had low blood pressure at the time of initial treatment with epinephrine
- they have a history of delayed anaphylaxis
According to the Food Standards Agency, approximately ten people die per year from food-induced anaphylaxis. Linked to this, there are approximately 1,500 deaths from asthma, some of which could be triggered by FA . Although FA is more common in children, especially those below the age of three, research has found that teenagers and young people have a higher risk of anaphylaxis-type reactions to food .
Allergy-tracking apps such as AlliApp can be useful in food-allergy sufferers, as reactions to food allergens can start off moderately, but rapidly become more severe with repeated exposure. Identifying food allergens early can therefore be beneficial as the sufferer, or their parent/guardian can learn what foods to avoid.
Common Food Allergens:
- Tree nuts (hazelnut, almond, walnut, macadamia, cashew, pecan, and so on)
- Sesame seeds
- Cow’s milk
This list is in no way exhaustive – allergies can be linked to a huge range of foods.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (2018): ‘Anaphylaxis’. Available at: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/anaphylaxis [Accessed on 01/07/2018]
- Watson S (2017): ‘Peanut Allergies’. Healthline.com. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/peanut-allergy-and-delayed-anaphylaxis [Accessed on 20/08/2018]
- Food Standards Agency (2017): ‘Allergy and Intolerance’. Available at: https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/allergy-and-intolerance [Accessed on 01/07/2018]