Anaphylactic shock is caused by systemic hypersensitivity, which is also known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic shock starts when a person is exposed to an allergen that they are sensitive to. During anaphylaxis “the basic physiologic alteration is the same as that of neurogenic shock: vasodilation and relative hypovolemia, leading to decreased tissue perfusion and impaired cellular metabolism” (Huether, S. E., & McCance, K. L. (2017) pg 643).
Numerous things can cause allergic reactions, some of them being shellfish, peanut butter, bee stings, latex, venom, and medications. An anaphylactic reaction will cause a humoral immune response, which makes the body produce large amounts of immunoglobulin E. This will then cause the mast cells to respond, causes vasodilation, and increased vascular permeability. When this happens, it can cause edema. It can also cause the smooth muscles to constrict, causing bronchospasms or laryngospasms.
Anaphylactic shock is typically something that happens very quickly, which is why it is essential to respond promptly. “Anaphylaxis most commonly affects the cutaneous, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems” (Mustafa, S., 2018). When anaphylaxis starts, the patient may feel dizzy, flushed, have difficulty breathing, or break out in a rash. They may also experience swelling of their lips, tongue, or both. The patient’s blood pressure may also drop, and they can also become confused.
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“While most reactions to an allergen are mild and can be handled with medicine or rest, some reactions can be severe—even deadly”(Holland, Kimberly, 2017). If a patient is experiencing true anaphylactic shock, it is vital to get them treatment right away. If the patient does not have an Epi-pen (epinephrine) and they are experiencing difficulty breathing or they are confused, dizzy or their airway, tongue or lips are swelling, it is imperative to either call 911 or get them to the nearest emergency room as quick as possible. If a patient does not show any signs of these more severe complications, you can treat the patient with Benadryl or an antihistamine and monitor them closely. If they show any signs of distress or difficulty breathing, then they would need to be taken to the hospital.
Age can play a role in anaphylactic shock because children may not know they have an allergy until the first time they are introduced to an allergen, such as peanuts or a bee sting. It would be essential to monitor them very carefully to see if they have a true reaction or if they break out in a rash. If any severe side effects occur, it is crucial to get them to help immediately. Genetics can also play a role in allergic reactions. Many times if a parent is allergic to something, their children will also be. Having children undergo allergy testing may help prevent a severe reaction because they will know to avoid specific allergens.
Holland, Kimberly (2017) Managing your child’s anaphylaxis at school. Healthline
Huether, S. E., & McCance, K. L. (2017). Understanding pathophysiology (6th ed.). St. Louis,
Mustafa, S. (2018). Anaphylaxis. Medscape.