Anaphylaxis hypersensitivity is an abnormal reaction to ordinarily harmless substances, which causes airway constriction, intestinal irritation and altered heart rate. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system mistakenly treats a harmless substance as a threat. Symptoms include hives; swelling of the throat, lips, tongue and eyes; and difficulty breathing or swallowing. Reaction can begin within minutes or seconds of exposure and rapidly progresses.


The most common causes are exposure to allergens such as food, medications, insect venom, and latex.

Anaphylaxis occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen that you have encountered at least once before. Occasionally, through a different mechanism, an anaphylactic-like reaction (called anaphylactoid reaction) occurs with the very first exposure to the allergen. Symptoms are the same for both anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions. Symptoms develop when cells release substances that are meant to protect you against the allergen.

Examples of anaphylaxis triggers include:

  • Antibiotics

  •  Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen), and prescription opiate pain medications (such as codeine); people with asthma and nasal polyps tend to be at greater risk for an anaphylactoid reaction to these drugs

  • Foods, such as nuts, shellfish, egg whites, and berries; those who react to ragweed may also react to chamomile tea

  • Insect bites or stings

  • Ingredients in some allergy skin tests, allergy shots, and vaccines

  • Blood transfusions

  • Latex (as in condoms, rubber gloves)

  • Food coloring and preservatives

  • Although rare, athletes may have an anaphylactoid reaction to exercise after eating certain foods, such as celery, shrimp, apples, squid, wheat, hazelnut, or chicken; this reaction is thought to be related to endorphins

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