What are the Symptoms of Anaphylactic Shock?

Anaphylactic shock, also known as anaphylaxis, is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur rapidly after exposure to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can affect multiple systems in the body, leading to a variety of symptoms. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock may include:

  • Difficulty Breathing: One of the most critical symptoms is difficulty breathing, often due to airway constriction and swelling. This can lead to wheezing, shortness of breath, or stridor (high-pitched breathing sounds).
  • Swelling: Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat is common and can lead to a distorted or puffy appearance.
  • Hives: Raised, itchy, red welts (hives) may appear on the skin.
  • Flushed or Pale Skin: The skin may become flushed (red) or pale (due to low blood pressure).
  • Rapid Heartbeat: An elevated heart rate (tachycardia) may occur.
  • Low Blood Pressure: Anaphylaxis can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure (hypotension), which can result in dizziness, fainting, or shock.
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are common gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Confusion or Altered Mental State: Some individuals may experience confusion, dizziness, or a feeling of impending doom.
  • Loss of Consciousness: In severe cases, anaphylactic shock can lead to loss of consciousness.
  • Chest Pain: Chest discomfort or pain can occur due to decreased oxygen delivery to the heart.
  • Incontinence: Loss of bladder or bowel control may occur.

Anaphylaxis can progress rapidly, and it is considered a medical emergency. Without immediate treatment, it can be fatal. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylactic shock and should be administered as soon as anaphylaxis is suspected. Other medications, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids, may also be given. Prompt medical attention, typically in an emergency room or urgent care center, is necessary to provide additional treatment and monitoring.

If you or someone you are with is experiencing symptoms of anaphylactic shock, such as difficulty breathing, swelling, or a known severe allergy, it is essential to use an epinephrine auto-injector (if available) and call 911 or seek immediate medical assistance. Prompt and appropriate treatment is crucial in managing anaphylaxis and increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.