The failure to recognize anaphylaxis episodes when they occur is becoming an increasingly important issue as these life-threatening reactions become more common, says Dr. Estelle Simons
"Thereâ€™s this paradox.
Despite anaphylaxis becoming more common, it is under recognized," the allergist and clinical researcher explained toÂ Allergic Living.
"The reason is: itâ€™s not so easy to recognize."
Simons, a past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Immunology at the University of Manitoba, says this is not only a problem for lay people â€" but also for medical professionals.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include hives and itching; breathing problems (throat closure, wheezing or coughing); gastrointestinal distress (stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea); as well as faintness and passing out due to low blood pressure.
But not all symptoms occur in every attack, and they may vary from one attack to another, even in the same person.
Hives, for instance, are an obvious clue that someone might be reacting to a food or insect sting.
But 10 per cent of people with anaphylaxis donâ€™t get hives, says Simons
notes that breathing problems can cause confusion over whether a person is suffering from anaphylaxis or an asthma attack.
In an infant, they might be mistaken for choking.
If someone is having their very first allergic reaction, he
might not have a clue whatâ€™s happening to them.
"Lack of recognition is a major issue for our patients and their families," says Simons
stresses the need for greater public awareness, and urges physicians to tell patients about helpful resources such asÂ FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) and Anaphylaxis Canada.
â€œWe need to get the message out," she