What Causes Anaphylaxis

The immune system produces antibodies that defend against foreign substances. This is good when a foreign substance is harmful, such as certain bacteria or viruses. But some people’s immune systems overreact to substances that don’t normally cause an allergic reaction. In the case of anaphylaxis, the immune system overreacts in a way that causes a full-body allergic reaction which can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.

Anaphylaxis makes the immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock — blood pressure drops suddenly and the airways narrow, blocking breathing.

1. The most common anaphylaxis triggers are food allergies such as:

  • peanuts and tree nuts
  • fish, shellfish
  • wheat, soy, sesame
  • milk.

2. Although not common, some people develop anaphylaxis from aerobic exercise, such as jogging, or even less intense physical activity, such as walking.

3. Eating certain foods before exercise or exercising when the weather is hot, cold or humid also have been linked to anaphylaxis in some people. Talk with your health care provider about precautions to take when exercising.

4. Insect venom: people who are allergic to insect venom can experience anaphylaxis after being stung by a bee, wasp, or other insect.

5. Medications: certain antibiotics, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the medications that can trigger anaphylaxis.

6. Latex: some people are allergic to latex, a type of rubber that is used in many products, including gloves, balloons, and rubber bands.

7. Anaphylaxis can also be triggered by exposure to certain substances in the environment, such as pollen, mold, or pet dander.

8. In some cases, anaphylaxis can occur without an apparent trigger. This is known as idiopathic anaphylaxis.

If you don’t know what triggers an allergy attack, certain tests can help identify the allergen. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and seek medical attention immediately if it occurs.