Asthma : 10 Easy Asthma Prevention Measures

Asthma is mainly a disease of industrial areas where people mainly live in urban cities. This respiratory disorder is more common in the pediatric age group and affects boys more than girls.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disorder of the airway in which there is bronchospasm (i.e. narrowing of the airway) and excess mucus production usually due to over-sensitization. 

It affects routine life activities especially those which require physical exertion. Severe asthma attacks disturb sleep and may cause insomnia. 

For many people asthma is not a big problem but for others it can be dangerous and life-threatening.  After the first asthma attack one must seek medical help as severe asthma attacks can be fatal.

Different types of Asthma:

. There are various kinds of asthma. A few of them are enlisted below:

  • Atopic asthma is more common in children. In this type the trigger (allergen) can be identified. The skin prick test is also positive in such patients
  • non-atopic asthma often starts later in life. These people have normal IgE levels and there is a negative skin prick test. No allergen can be specified.
  • Occupational asthma occurs in people who come in contact with different substances or chemicals at their workplace such as sawdust, paints, latex, etc. 
  • Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by strenuous exercises such as yoga, swimming, hiking, etc.
  • Drug-induced asthma as indicated by the name; it is induced by taking certain drugs. Aspirin-induced asthma is the most common. Others include beta-blockers and NSAIDs. 
  • Nocturnal asthma

Common signs and symptoms of Asthma:

One can be asymptomatic, have infrequent symptoms and can have specific signs and symptoms. The most common ones are:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing (i.e. whistling sound)
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath (Dyspnea)
  • Excessive mucus productions
  • Tachycardia
Asthma : 10 Easy Asthma Prevention Measures 2 - Daily Medicos
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How can we prevent asthma attacks?

You cannot prevent asthma but you can control and prevent asthma attacks by taking certain proactive measures. Here are ten prevention tips to control asthma.

1. Know your allergens

A number of irritants (allergens) have been identified till now. They all can trigger and flare up asthma-attacks. 

These include: 

  • Smoke
  • Pollens
  • Dust mites
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cold air
  • Exercise and physical exertion
  • Common cold
  • Stress
  • Food preservatives
  • Ibuprofen, naproxen, Aspirin
  • Sulfites
  • Anxiety and mood disorders
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Rhino sinusitis

These triggers are different for different people hence it’s necessary to identify one’s trigger.

2. Steer clear of allergens

Once you’ve identified your allergen, try to avoid it as much as possible. For e.g. reduce your outside trips if you are allergic to smoke and pollens or wear masks.

3. Immunization or Vaccination

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended immunization for asthma. Pneumonia and Influenza vaccinations decrease the risk of exacerbations. 

Annual “flu shot” protects you from getting infected by the flu virus which causes seasonal influenza.

There’s another technique called “Desensitization” also called allergy shots. It is used to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. In allergy shots, patients are exposed to tiny amounts of allergens to diminish the body’s response to allergens.

4. Have a treatment plan

With the help of your health care professional, create a health plan to monitor and manage the asthma attacks. This plan must include an assessment of the symptoms from mild to severe and your medications. It should also contain all the adjustments to your medication if your symptoms change.

Follow your asthma plan. The usage of these written plans has to be very effective in managing the asthma attacks. 

5. Take your medication

There is no cure for asthma. But symptoms can be improved by taking proper medications. Take your prescribed medicines even if you feel your symptoms have improved. Do not stop your medication without your doctor’s advice.

There are medicines for both short and long term control of asthma.

For quick relief of your symptoms, you can use

  • Short-acting beta-agonists ( Albuterol)
  • Anticholinergics (Ipratropium)

For long term control on Asthma Attacks:

  • Corticosteroids (Beclomethasone)
  • Long-acting beta-agonists (Salmeterol or Formoterol)
  • Antileukotrienes (Montelukast)

6. Monitor your Respiration

Buy a “Peak Flow Meter” and measure your peak airflow daily at home. This will help you know if your symptoms are worsening or improving even if there is no noticeable change in symptoms. It will also help you to monitor whether your medicines are working or not.

7. Keep the air around you clean

Air filtrating systems can be helpful in this regard as this will help to remove allergens which are usually found in air such as dust particles, pollens, smoke, etc.

 Limit your exposure to almost any kind of smoke. 

Avoid both active and passive cigarette smoking.

Humidifiers have also been found to be effective for asthma patients. But in some patients humidity worsens the symptoms hence use it carefully. 

8. Lifestyle Modifications can affect Asthma Attacks

  • Yoga has shown to provide a little improvement in the symptoms of asthma.  
  • For stable asthma patients, exercise has found to be beneficial. 
  • Try breathing exercises 
  • Keep your weight under control as being overweight can make your symptoms worse. 
  • Stay healthy

9. Avoid animal dander to limit Asthma

Stay away from animals and pets around you. You don’t have to completely give up on your pets but try avoiding direct contact with them.  Clean and vacuum regularly as even pet dander can trigger an asthma attack  

 10. Try herbal and natural remedies

Along with your medicines you can try home remedies to relieve your symptoms. The following items have been found to be advantageous and will surely benefit you.

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Honey
  • Caffeine
  • Choline
  • Omega-three oils
  • Black seed

Take Away

Asthma generally has a very good prognosis and is not a vicious disorder. Avoid your allergens, adhere to your medication and keep taking proactive preventive measures. Keep breathing!

ANAPHYLAXIS: life-threatening allergy

Have you heard about allergies? Do you or anyone around you is allergic to some food or medicine? If yes, have you ever witnessed what happens to such people when they accidentally come in contact with that allergen? Do you want to know why and how this allergic reaction occurs? Well this article will answer all such questions.

OVERVIEW

Anaphylaxis is an acute and severe allergic condition that can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock. 

HOW DOES THIS ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK OCCUR? 

We all have a body’s defense system called the immune system. In some people, the cells of their immune system overreact against certain foreign substances (i.e. allergens) which are normally harmless and from which most of the people are immune. When these cells come in contact with allergens, they form antibodies against them. These antigen-antibody complexes causes a release of a substance called “Histamine”, the main culprit. This histamine dilates our blood vessels and makes them permeable which results in leakage of fluid into the tissues decreasing the venous return to the heart which ultimately leads to shock.  

CAUSES

Though susceptibility to develop such allergic reactions is genetically determined, some observations have led to a new idea called “Hygiene hypothesis” i.e. people who in their prenatal life aren’t exposed to environmental antigens are prone to develop allergies later in life. So we can say that too much hygiene isn’t always good, however, this is difficult to prove. People who are prone to develop anaphylaxis usually have high levels of antibodies (IgE antibodies) in serum and are called atopic individuals.  

The most common causes of the anaphylactic reactions are the following:

  • Foods including eggs, shellfish, peanuts, and other nuts
  • Medicine which includes NSAIDS (e.g. Aspirin), penicillin etc
  • Insect stings (bee stings being the most common ones)
  • Latex
  • General anesthesia
  • Exercise 

Keep in mind that these above mentioned aren’t the only causes and that a person can be allergic to almost anything.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock differ. A person can have both anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock at the same time. Even a very small dose of an allergen can cause symptoms within minutes of exposure.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Itching
  • Runny nose
  • Skin erythema (redness)
  • Hives (swollen and pale bumps on the skin)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hoarseness of voice (due to laryngeal edema)
  • Swollen lips, tongue and throat
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • White or blue discoloration
  • Urticaria (skin rash and plaques)
  • Weak pulse
  • Cold/clammy skin
  • Choking

A person having both anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock can develop mixed symptoms.

TREATMENT

As already mentioned, histamine causes vasodilation (i.e. dilates the blood vessels) hence agents or drugs that reverse this process can be used as a treatment for anaphylactic shock. One such agent is a hormone “Epinephrine”. This hormone is a vasopressor (i.e. it constricts blood vessels) and it also increases heart rate so it can also help in the reversal of the symptoms of shock. 

There is a device called Epinephrine Pen (EpiPen) which contains a single dose of Epinephrine which is used in emergencies for the treatment of anaphylactic shock. It’s a bit expensive but quite handy and allergic people must always carry it with them.

There’s another technique called “Desensitization” also called allergy shots. It is used to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. In allergy shots, patients are exposed to tiny amounts of allergens to diminish the body’s response to allergens.

IV (intravenous) or IM (intramuscular) epinephrine is the first step in anaphylaxis treatment. Adjuncts include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Glucocorticoids (steroids)
  • Antihistamines
  • Beta-agonists
  •  Glucose
  • IV fluids

Once the first anaphylactic shock is over, the person must identify the allergen so that he can avoid it in the future and must visit his doctor after every anaphylactic reaction.

Before you Leave!

Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is required. Any delay can cause permanent brain damage and respiratory distress which may prove fatal. So whenever you see someone going into anaphylactic shock, seek medical help immediately or else you may lose that person forever.

What is CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)?

Do you tire out easily after a nonsterous exercise? or even a mental activity? Do you experience long term fatigue that doesn’t get relieved by bed rest? you might be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME (CFS)?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) also known as Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or Post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) is a medical condition in which a person experiences extreme chronic fatigue, which disturbs and limits their routine daily life activities, without any identified underlying medical cause.

First identified as “Neurasthenia” in the 19th century, it was once a neglected concept. But now the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes it as an illness. MS/CFS International Awareness Day is celebrated on 12th May every year.

Research shows that in the U.S. around 2.5 million people (i.e. 7 to 3,000 out of 1, 00,000 individuals) have CFC. While in the UK it has affected 250,000 people. CFC is more common among females than males. It affects adults especially in their 40s and 50s. It also affects young children with an incidence of approximately 1 out of 50 children.

CAUSES:

A number of physiological, genetic, pathological and psychological causes have been identified but the exact cause remains unknown. Though there is insufficient evidence, many infectious causes have been proposed. Most of the cases, about 60%, occur after viral infections.

  •  Viruses causing CFS include:
  • Human herpesvirus 6
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Flavivirus ( Dengue virus)
  • Rubella
  • Ross River Virus (RRV)

Some bacterial infections have also been identified as a cause of CFS. These include:

  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae

RISK FACTORS:

There are certain risk factors that predispose people to chronic fatigue syndrome. All ethnic groups are equally prone but genetics play an eminent role here as blood relatives are more likely to develop this illness.

Some other risk factors are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • Age
  • Psychological disorders
  • Low physical fitness
  • Hormonal disturbance (e.g. low cortisol levels)

DIAGNOSIS:

 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set the following criteria for CFS’s diagnosis:

Significantly lowered ability to participate in activities that were routine before and persisting more than six months

Physical or mental activity causing worsening symptoms that would not have been problematic before this illness

Sleep problems

As yet, no screening test is available and there is no distinctive laboratory abnormality to diagnose CFS. So it’s important to rule out all other possible causes such as:

  • Lyme disease
  • Dengue fever
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Mononucleosis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Anemia
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

 SYMPTOMS:

Symptoms vary from person to person. These symptoms also depend upon the severity of the disease. Long term fatigue lasting for more than 6 months is the chief symptom. This unexplained fatigue lasts for more than 24 hours after any normal physical or mental activity called “Post-exertional malaise” (PEM) and is not relieved by bed rest.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Depression are somehow interlinked hence people having CFS may suffer from depression. Depression further exalts fatigue.

Symptoms of CFS can be classified into different categories:

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS:

  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Night sweats
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sore throat

SLEEP DISORDERS:

  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Non-restorative sleep (feeling unfresh even after a full night sleep)
  • Sleep apnea

A few other symptoms include:

  • Memory related illnesses
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Hyperalgesia (i.e. increased sensitivity to pain)
  • Sensitivities to noise, chemicals, odors, etc.
  • Attention-deficit
  • Orthostatic intolerance (lightheadedness)

The onset is gradual but can be sudden. The majority of the people with CFS live a normal life however some people are bedridden and totally dependent upon others. A few people experience severe chronic pain which is strongly disabling. CFS is not easily cured and lasts for decades.

Intelligence and reasoning remain unaltered but symptoms of different neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological disorders may develop.

There are often rounds of remission and relapses which further extend the course of this illness and make the management difficult.

TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT:

Up till now there is no certain drug or any pharmacological agent to cure or treat chronic fatigue syndrome. For many people, counseling and Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) have shown some benefits. And according to a few kinds of research, immunomodulatory drugs are found to be effective as they improve both cognitive function and exercise capacity.

Patients who develop symptoms of depression can be treated with anti-depressants and anti-depression therapies like Massage, Deep breath exercises, Stretching, Yoga etc.

For a good sleep following strategies can be used. These will improve your ability to sleep;

  • Stick to a schedule
  • Every night sleep at the same time
  • Set alarm so that you wake up at same time every day
  • Avoid any kind of exercise before sleep
  • Reduce or limit your caffeine intake

The full recovery rate is 5% and children have a better prognosis than adults. As there is no cure and symptoms are different for every person, it’s important that you find a treatment plan that completely meets your needs.

Sleep Paralysis – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and feel as if there is some weight on your chest? Despite being fully awake and alert you are unable to utter a single word or move a muscle? And do you hear weird sounds during such episodes? This condition is called “Sleep Paralysis”. This article will help you understand everything about this mysterious medical condition.

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis is a parasomnia in which a person is jolted awake and is unable to move or speak. This is sometimes associated with terrifying hallucinations as well.

sleep-paralysis-daily-medicos

Sleep Paralysis is a scary and awakening nightmare as some people experience lucid dreams during these episodes. The episodes might occur upon awakening or right after you sleep. They can be recurrent and don’t last for more than two minutes.

How common is Sleep Paralysis?

This sleep disorder is not uncommon. While 5% have regular episodes, about 8% to 50% of people experience sleep paralysis at some point in their lives. 

It may start during adolescence but the majority of the population experiences it between 35 to 45 years of age. No gender discrimination, as males and females suffer equally. However, according to researchers, students and psychiatric patients are more likely to develop this condition.

Is Sleep Paralysis a serious condition?

Sleep paralysis is not a serious risk. It is benign and not life-threatening. But these horrifying undesired episodes make people anxious and depressed.

What causes Sleep Paralysis?

Some people associate these episodes with black magic, demonic possessions and different paranormal activities however this is not the case.

Each night our body alternates between two phases of sleep cycle namely, Rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). During REM, lucid dreams occur, our eyes move and the body relaxes (i.e. voluntary muscles don’t move).

Sleep paralysis occurs due to the disruption of the Rapid-eye movement (REM) phase of our sleep. Brain and body are not working in synchronization during sleep paralysis. Hence, despite regaining full consciousness our body is still sleeping. 

Sleep paralysis runs in families, so genetics can be a possible cause here. Also the risk of sleep paralysis is incidentally higher in monozygotic twins.

People having poor sleep hygiene (irregular sleep patterns) are more likely to experience sleep paralysis.

sleep-paralysis

Certain psychiatric conditions have also been linked to this sleeping disorder (Narcolepsy, anxiety disorders, etc.)

The following factors have been described as possible causes of sleep paralysis:

  • Genetics/Family history
  • Depression
  • Supine position (sleeping on your back)
  • Irregular patterns of sleep
  • Narcolepsy
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Sleep deprivation

Apart from these above-mentioned causes, there are certain risk factors too.

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Bipolar Syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Hypertension

What are the symptoms of Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is as old as mankind itself. Globally, people belonging to different cultures and regions, experience the same signs and symptoms.

  • Fully conscious but unable to move the body
  • Unable to speak
  • Hallucinations
  • Intense fear 
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Sweating
  • Whispers, roars, weird sounds
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia
  • Tingling/vibrations throughout the body
  • Numbness

Three kinds of hallucinations have been reported by people during sleep paralysis.

  • Intruder: They sense some threatening or evil presence around them.
  • Incubus: They feel like they have been smothered or something is pressing down on them.
  • Vestibular motor: They feel as if their body is floating or flying in the air.

Is any treatment available?

Initially the guidance regarding sleep stages, sleep patterns and avoidance of muscle movement during sleep is given.

However in serious cases, certain drugs are given.  

  • Antidepressants
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

But no specific drug has yet been discovered for its treatment.

How can we prevent Sleep Paralysis?

By making minor lifestyle changes and improving sleep hygiene we can avoid undesirable episodes of sleep paralysis.

Avoid sleeping on back i.e. supine position as it obstructs our airway and causes micro-arousals during sleep.

A good night’s sleep is important here. As erratic sleep schedules and insomnia are found to be eminent instigators. 

Here are a few tips for better sleep:

  • Limit intake of caffeine or any stimulant
  • A serene and comfortable sleeping environment
  • Avoid exercise within 2-4 hours of sleep
  • Try to sleep at the same time every night
  • Wake up at the same time in the morning daily
  • Avoid long naps during day-time 
  • Yoga/Meditation

Take Away!

Sleep paralysis is not a serious condition but medical help should be sought if you’re having regular episodes. 

Sleep is extremely essential for our well being, overall health, and proper functioning. Sleep deprivation badly affects our productivity. So, by improving our sleeping habits we can improve our work effectiveness and can prevent the risk of sleep paralysis.  

Migraine Headache: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

  • A primary headache disorder.
  • Migraine most often begins at puberty and most affects those aged between 35 and 45 years.
  • It is more common in women, usually by a factor of about 2:1, because of hormonal influences.
  • It is caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.
  • Migraine is recurrent, often life-long, and characterized by recurring attacks.

Reference WHO

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a very common medical condition. It is a chronic headache disorder which affects one-half of the head. Headache is recurrent, throbbing and pulsatile in nature. In some people it follows an aura (perceptual disturbance/visual disturbance). Other associations include abdominal symptoms and sensitivities to sound and light. 

Who is more prone to suffer from migraine?

History of migraine dates back to 1500 BC. Each year it affects 15% of the population universally i.e. around 1 billion people. It is said that about 25% of the people will suffer from migraine at some point in their lives. Being slightly less common in African and Asian countries, it affects 6%-18% of the population in the United States and other Western countries. In Europe, 28% people suffer from migraine headache every year.

Age is also a key factor here as it starts between 15 to 24 years of age and typically occurs in 35 to 45 years of age. Before puberty, it is more common in males than females. But after adolescence it occurs more frequently in females than males with a ratio of about 3:1

What causes Migraine Headache?

A number of causes have been proposed but its exact underlying cause remains unknown. Following are a few possible triggers:

  • Genetic factors can be responsible here as migraine headaches run in families and about two-third of the cases are familial cases.
  • Environmental factors such as nature or quality of ambient sound and lighting 
  • Foods have also been reported as a cause by many people (e.g. following intake of monosodium glutamate, chocolate, dairy products, alcohol etc.)
  • Certain physiological processes like fatigue, stress, hunger, menopause, pregnancy etc.

How long does migraine last?

Duration varies. It may last from a few hours to 3 days.

What are the different kinds of Migraine?

Migraine headaches are of seven types. If you are a migraine sufferer, discern which kind of migraine you have.

  • Common Migraine: More common in females. Only headache, no aura.
  • Classic Migraine: More frequent in males. Headache followed by an aura.
  • Retinal Migraine: Headache associated with visual disturbance and sometimes even transient blindness of an eye.
  • Complication of Migraine: Associated with any brain lesion, unusually long and infrequent headache.
  • Abdominal Migraine: Cyclical vomiting, nausea, vertigo cause migraine headaches.
  • Probable Migraine: Headache present but absence of sufficient evidence to call it migraine.
  • Chronic Migraine: Headache lasts for a very long period ranging from 15 days to more than three months.

Symptoms of Migraine Headache:

The most common symptoms of migraine are:

  • Intense pulsating in half head
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivities to bright lights and loud noises
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

All these symptoms get worse after any physical activity.

Migraine headache occurs in episodes and has 4 phases. It’s not necessary that one will experience all four phases.

  • Prodrome: It occurs hours or even days before headache. During this phase you may have following symptoms:
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Constipation/Diarrhea 
  • Depression/Euphoria
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Altered mood
  • Aura: It occurs before or during headache and may last from minutes to about an hour. Its symptoms are:
  • Blurred vision
  • Transient blindness of one eye
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of position sense
  • Loss of a part of field of vision
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Pain Phase: This is the headache phase. In children it lasts for an hour while in adults it lasts from 4 to 72 hours. Other symptoms during this phase are:
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Sense of world spinning
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Postdrome: It’s the hungover phase which occurs after a headache. You may experience weakness, depression or euphoria, abdominal symptoms etc.

How to treat and manage migraine headache?

Management and prevention includes lifestyle changes, dietary/nutritional supplements, medications and surgeries.

Our goal here is to reduce pain and other symptoms. The earlier you take medications the more effective they will be.

Medications include:

  • Aspirin, paracetamol, Ibuprofen, caffeine (Analgesics)
  • Sumatriptin (For pain and nausea)
  • Beta blockers are the first line treatment (propranolol, metoprolol)
  • Topiramate
  • Gabapentin
  • Pregabalin
  • Timolol
  • Amitriptyline
  • Eptinezumab, pertuzumab (Anti-calcitonin gene-related peptide)

For those who do not show any improvement after medication, migraine surgery is available. In this surgery nerves around the head and neck region are decompressed which improves the symptoms.

Botulinum toxin (Botox) has also been found to be as of a great benefit.

Effective household remedies to treat Migraine:

The following alternative remedies have proven to be effective in minimizing the symptoms of migraine headache. 

  • Acupuncture
  • Ginger
  • Yoga and massage
  • Essential oils (lavender) 
  • Magnesium supplements
  • Vitamin B complex intake
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Herbs (Butterbur)
  • Adequate hydration
  • Good sleep
migraine

TAKE AWAY!

Though migraine is a benign condition it does affect the effectiveness and productivity of the sufferers. Hence by taking preventive measures such as regular sleep patterns, avoidance of triggers and proper medications you can prevent and minimize the frequency of headaches and live a true gleeful life.

Quick Overview of Anaphylaxis [Easy to Understand]

Have you heard about allergies? Do you or anyone around you is allergic to some food or medicine? If yes, have you ever witnessed what happens to such people when they accidentally come in contact with that allergen? Do you want to know why and how this allergic reaction occurs? Well, this article will answer all such questions.

Overview

Anaphylaxis is an acute and severe allergic condition which can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock. Most common cases of anaphylaxis are caused by a bee sting or eating foods that may cause allergies to some people, such as peanuts or tree nuts. 

How does Anaphylaxis shock occur?

We all have a body’s defense system called the immune system. In some people, the cells of their immune system overreact against certain foreign substances (i.e. allergens) which are normally harmless and from which most of the people are immune. When these cells come in contact with allergens, they form antibodies against them. These antigen-antibody complexes cause a release of a substance called “Histamine”, the main culprit. This histamine dilates our blood vessels and makes them permeable, which results in leakage of fluid into the tissues decreasing the venous return to the heart, which ultimately leads to shock.  

Cause of Anaphylaxis

Though susceptibility to develop such allergic reactions is genetically determined, some observations have led to a new idea called “Hygiene hypothesis,” i.e. people who in their prenatal life aren’t exposed to environmental antigens are prone to develop allergies later in life. So we can say that too much hygiene isn’t always good. However, this is difficult to prove. People who are prone to develop anaphylaxis usually have high levels of antibodies (IgE antibodies) in serum and are called atopic individuals.  

The most common causes of the anaphylactic reactions are following:

  1. Foods including eggs, shellfish, peanuts and other nuts
  2. Medicine which includes NSAIDS (e.g. Aspirin), penicillin etc
  3. Insect stings (bee stings being the most common ones)
  4. Latex
  5. General anaesthesia
  6. Exercise 

Keep in mind that these above mentioned aren’t the only causes and that a person can be allergic to almost anything.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Symptoms of anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock differ. A person can have both anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock at the same time. Even a very small dose of an allergen can cause symptoms within minutes of exposure.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Itching
  • Runny nose
  • Skin erythema (redness)
  • Hives (swollen and pale bumps on the skin)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hoarseness of voice (due to laryngeal oedema)
  • Swollen lips, tongue and throat
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
Quick Overview of Anaphylaxis [Easy to Understand] 3 - Daily Medicos

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • White or blue discoloration
  • Urticaria (skin rash and plaques)
  • Weak pulse
  • Cold/clammy skin
  • Choking

Person having both anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock can develop mixed symptoms.

Treatment for Anaphylaxis:

As already mentioned, histamine causes vasodilation (i.e. dilates the blood vessels); hence agents or drugs that reverse this process can be used as a treatment for anaphylactic shock. One such agent is a hormone “Epinephrine”.  This hormone is a vasopressor (i.e. it constricts blood vessels) and it also increases heart rate so it can also help in the reversal of the symptoms of shock. 

There is a device called Epinephrine Pen (EpiPen) which contains a single dose of Epinephrine which is used in emergency situations for treatment of anaphylactic shock. It’s a bit expensive, but quite handy and allergic people must always carry it with them.

There’s another technique called “Desensitization” also called allergy shots. It is used to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. In allergy shots, patients are exposed to tiny amounts of allergens to diminish the body’s response to allergens.

IV (intravenous) or IM (intramuscular) epinephrine is the first step in anaphylaxis treatment. Adjuncts include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Glucocorticoids (steroids)
  • Antihistamines
  • Beta-agonists
  • Glucose
  • IV fluids

Once the first anaphylactic shock is over, the person must identify the allergen so that he can avoid it in future and must-visit his doctor after every anaphylactic reaction.

Before you Leave!

Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is required. Any delay can cause permanent brain damage and respiratory distress which may prove fatal. So whenever you see someone going into anaphylactic shock, seek medical help immediately or else you may lose that person forever.