Risk and Severity
IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A DIAGNOSIS BY YOUR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL. ONLY A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL CAN ASSESS THE RISK OF HAVING A LIFE-THREATENING ALLERGIC REACTION (ANAPHYLAXIS). This information is being provided for your education and to facilitate a discussion with your health care professional.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction to an allergen, typically foods, biting or stinging insects, medications or physical exercise. People who have had a mild reaction may be at more risk because a mild reaction may be followed by a more severe reaction. In addition, individuals who have had a prior mild reaction to an allergen may also be at risk, because a severe reaction may be preceded by a less serious one. The severity of previous allergic reactions is not a predictor of the severity of future reactions. We encourage you to talk to your health care professional should you be concerned that you or your child may be at risk for anaphylaxis.
Anyone can develop a life-threatening allergy at any time in life, but certain factors may make some individuals susceptible to anaphylaxis. These factors can be divided into two categories: 1) general factors that increase the risk of having a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and 2) factors that may increase the severity of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). These are shown in Figures 1 and 2 below.
Factors that increase the risk of anaphylaxis include (Figure 1):
- Exposure to certain allergens (triggers) such as food (eg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk), biting or stinging insects (eg, bees, ants and ticks), latex and medications (eg, penicillin) for those who may be allergic to them
- Exercise, in susceptible individuals
- Exposure to cold, heat or sunlight
Factors that may increase the severity of anaphylaxis include (Figure 2):
- Adolescents and young adults may be at an increased risk of having a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) triggered because of inconsistent behaviors in avoiding known triggers
- The elderly may be at an increased risk of anaphylaxis because of accompanying disorders and medications used to treat those disorders, such as heart disease. In addition, the elderly may be at an increased risk of anaphylaxis if they are exposed to biting or stinging insects
- Disorders that make the symptoms of anaphylaxis difficult to recognize, such as impaired vision, seizures or depression
- Medications or chemicals that make the symptoms of anaphylaxis difficult to recognize, such as antidepressants, sedatives or alcohol
- Disorders such as asthma (especially if severe or not controlled with medication), heart disease, high blood pressure and cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke
- Certain medications used in the treatment of heart disease, such as beta-blockers, that may block the medicinal benefits of epinephrine
Talk to your health care professional to determine if you may be at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) — and if you should be prescribed an EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector. It’s important that those at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) avoid known allergy-causing triggers and always carry an EpiPen Auto-Injector with them.
Anaphylaxis is unpredictable, and mild symptoms can progress rapidly to a severe reaction that may be life-threatening.