Anaphylaxis is the result of the immune system – the body's natural defence system – overreacting to a trigger.
This is often something you're allergic to, but isn't always.
Common anaphylaxis triggers include:
- Medicines – including some antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin
- Foods – including nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs and some fruits
- General anaesthetic
- Contrast agents – special dyes used in some medical tests to help certain areas of your body show up better on scans
- latex allergy – a type of rubber found in some rubber gloves and condoms
- Insect stings – particularly wasp and bee stings
In some cases, there's no obvious trigger. This is known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.
Your doctor will know if you’ve had this severe allergic reaction is by its symptoms. He’ll also ask about your exposure to things known to cause allergies, also known as triggers. Your doctor may ask you questions about previous allergic reactions, including whether you've reacted to:
- Particular foods
- Insect stings
To help confirm the diagnosis:
You might be given a blood test to measure the amount of a certain enzyme (tryptase) that can be elevated up to three hours after anaphylaxis
You might be tested for allergies with skin tests or blood tests to help determine your trigger
Many conditions have signs and symptoms similar to those of anaphylaxis. Your doctor will want to rule out other conditions.