What Causes a Life-Threatening Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis)?
A life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is usually a severe reaction to a specific allergen (trigger). These triggers can include but are not limited to food, stinging and biting insects, medications and latex. While less common, anaphylaxis can also be triggered by exercise, and some reactions may have unknown causes, which should be further evaluated by your health care professional. Not everyone exposed to an allergen (trigger) will have a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Anaphylaxis occurs when the body perceives a trigger as a threat and starts forming antibodies (special proteins made by the body’s immune system) to defend itself. These antibodies cause the release of substances (molecules released by the immune system when harmful agents invade the body), which produce the immediate symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Consult a health care professional if you or your child has had even a mild reaction to an allergen (trigger) because a prior mild reaction is not an indicator of the severity of future reactions. A mild allergic reaction can progress and become life-threatening within minutes.