Anaphylaxis Myths and Facts

Don’t be fooled by these common anaphylaxis myths. Ask and learn the facts, because you can save someone’s life if you know how to recognize and handle this very dangerous reaction.

Anaphylaxis Fast Facts:

Anaphylaxis symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen. Sometimes, however, it can occur a half-hour or longer after exposure. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions (hives and itching and flushed or pale skin)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constriction of your airways
  • Swollen tongue or throat
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

Myth #1: Allergy tests can predict anaphylaxis

Fact: Allergy tests such as a skin prick test or blood test can help doctors work out how likely someone is to react to an allergen, but it does not tell how severe the reaction might be, or if someone is experiencing anaphylaxis.

We can’t predict who will have a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction, which is why anyone presenting with symptoms should receive immediate medical treatment with adrenaline by an injection to a muscle to keep them safe.

Myth #2: Anaphylaxis happens right away

Fact: Anaphylaxis happens 5 to 30 minutes after an individual comes into contact with one of his or her allergy triggers. In rare cases, symptoms don’t start until more than an hour later.

After getting treatment, anaphylaxis symptoms can come back, which is why it is important to go and stay at a hospital so that a doctor can check your status easily, hours after treatment had been administered.

Myth #3: Mild reactions are not something to be worried about

Fact: Individuals with a family history of serious allergic reactions and those with asthma, eczema, and other allergies, are most likely to experience anaphylaxis. A mild reaction in the past does not necessarily mean that you’re in the clear. If you have a history of allergies, talk to your doctor about whether or not you’re at risk for anaphylaxis, and what you should do to prepare.

Myth #4: Over-the-counter drugs can treat anaphylaxis

Fact: Anaphylaxis can be treated immediately with epinephrine, administered via an auto-injector, which is available by prescription only. If you don’t have one or someone with you has anaphylaxis, call 911 right away. The longer anaphylaxis goes without treatment, the more dangerous it is.

Myth #5: It’s easy to determine the cause

Fact: While anaphylaxis triggers are obvious, there are times when you may not get a reaction. Even if you think you have identified what the trigger was, confirm it with an allergist and undergo tests to be sure.