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When Is an Allergic Reaction an Emergency?

Your immune system is a network of organs and tissue that helps to keep your body from being exposed to threats that lead to injury, disease, and other types of harm. 

Your skin is the first line of defense, but once something gets through, your body uses many ways to defend itself. 

Sometimes, your immune system attacks even a harmless particle in your body as if it were a foreign invader. These are allergens, and the result is an allergic reaction

Whether it’s a reaction to dust, or swelling and hives due to molds or other substances, allergies can take on many forms and come from different causes, but the symptoms are generally not serious. 

On occasion, your body may react severely enough to need medical attention, so to find out more about these reactions let's look at how allergies work, what qualifies as an allergy emergency, and how we can manage and treat them. 

If you live in the Houston and Spring, Texas, area and you’re struggling with an extreme allergic reaction, our team at Houston Medical ER can help.

How allergies work

An allergy is an overreaction from your immune system when it encounters specific particles known as allergens. When this happens, your body creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) from antibodies that bond to allergy cells (mast cells) that live in your skin, airways, and respiratory tract. 

When your antibodies find these allergens and take them to the allergy cells, they attach to a receptor cell that creates histamine, which causes your allergic responses.

Because the allergens can bond to cells in different places, reactions to a wide variety of substances affect people differently, including foods, inhalants, pet dander, mites, molds, some medications, latex, and insect bites.

Defining allergy emergencies

A severe response  known as anaphylaxis is more common with foods and insect bites. Going into anaphylactic shock means your body has a major response to an allergen, releasing enough histamine to trigger extreme symptoms in different parts of the body, such as: 

  • Skin — swelling, itchiness, redness, and patches of red rashes (hives)
  • Airway — difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, breathing problems
  • Stomach — diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramps
  • Heart — feeling faint, drop in blood pressure, weakened pulse, rise in heart rate

It can occur in four stages, starting with skin symptoms and moving on to more widespread issues that can lead to anaphylactic shock, which may result in loss of consciousness. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Management and treatment

How we treat anaphylaxis depends on what triggered the severe response and its effect on your body. If you are at high risk of this type of allergic response, you may carry an autoinjector that contains epinephrine (EpiPen®), which can reduce symptoms until you can get proper care. 

Other treatments include intravenous antihistamines and cortisone, oxygen to keep you breathing, and beta-antagonists to relieve breathing symptoms.

Knowing the signs to look for during anaphylactic shock can make the difference between life and death, so if you do have severe problems with allergies, hurry to Houston Medical ER in Houston or Spring, Texas, or make an appointment to get your allergies under control.

For any medical procedure, patients respond to treatment differently, hence each patient's results may vary.
**In case of a life threatening emergency, immediately call 911.
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