About Anaphylaxis

Video 3 of 30
3 min 53 sec

Contrary to popular belief, anaphylaxis has actually been around for a very long time, but in recent years it has become much more of a problem. Anaphylaxis is a serious type of allergic reaction, which can occur through a whole variety of ways. These include by eating or drinking, for example peanuts or milk, inhaling, for example dust, injecting, such as the result of a bee sting, or even by simply touching or coming into close contact with something.

The substance which causes the allergic reaction is called the allergen. For example, if someone ate something with eggs in, and that caused an allergic reaction, then the egg would be the allergen. Allergens are unique to each person, meaning not everyone who experiences reactions is allergic to the same allergens. Consequently, of course, not everyone is allergic to something, meaning not everyone will be at risk of anaphylaxis. So for the majority of people, if they are stung by a bee, all that will happen is the local pain and discomfort of the sting. However, for those that are allergic to bee stings, the problem can become much more serious, the signs and symptoms can be much more complicated and can even be fatal if not treated correctly and urgently. This is going to be very stressful for the individual and they are probably going to have a lot of trouble breathing.

I am sure that everyone watching this video will be familiar with food labels such as “This product may contain nuts” or “possible allergens within food”. Looking back not so long ago, allergens did not need to be highlighted on food packaging, but FDA regulations passed in 2004 under the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act meant that this needed to be present on food products labelled on or after January 1, 2006. This is because allergic reactions and anaphylaxis are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.

There's lots of thought into why this has become an increasing problem more than it was maybe 25 years ago. Now, due to these FDA regulations, you can look at the packaging of food and better identify the risk of allergens. You might hear announcements on airplanes where a passenger has a severe peanut allergy and therefore the consumption of nuts on the plane is being forbidden. So you can see that allergies and anaphylaxis are prevalent in many different areas, and as the years pass will only continue to increase in their prevalence.

The houses we live in are also playing a part in this change. Houses are a lot more controlled now in terms of temperature and humidity, whereas older houses would have had open cracks in the windows and have been generally less clean. Central heating can cause problems as we now live in much more of a controlled environment. This means that at a younger age, our bodies are exposed to fewer harmful substances, meaning we don’t build up the antibodies to resist certain things and anaphylaxis has links with asthma, which is also an increasing problem. In this course we're going to be talking about the different treatment methods that are available, but in all cases where you suspect anaphylaxis you should call the EMS. Anaphylaxis is something that comes on very quickly and even if you can give the auto-injector and the person can appear to feel better very, very quickly, advanced medical help should still be sought.

Results from a 2015-2016 survey of more than 38,000 children indicate that nearly 8 percent have food allergies, and the CDC reports that between the two periods of 1997-1999 and 2009- 2011, food allergy prevalence among children increased by 50 percent.