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Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic Shock Pronunciation: An-a-phy-lac-tic Shock (ăn’ə-fə-lăk’tĭk shŏk)

Definition: Anaphylactic shock is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur suddenly after exposure to an allergen. Symptoms can include hives, swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, a rapid, weak pulse, and loss of consciousness. Immediate medical attention and treatment with epinephrine are essential to counteract this reaction.

What is Anaphylactic Shock?


Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency that results from a severe allergic reaction. Common triggers include certain foods, medications, insect venom, and latex. The body’s immune system overreacts to the allergen, leading to a rapid and dramatic drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing.

Key Facts about Anaphylactic Shock:

  • Speed is crucial in treating anaphylactic shock. Immediate administration of epinephrine can reverse the symptoms and prevent a fatality.
  • People with known severe allergies often carry an auto-injector of epinephrine (EpiPen) for immediate self-administration in case of exposure.
  • Even if symptoms improve after an injection of epinephrine, it’s still important to go to the emergency department for further evaluation and treatment.

Anaphylactic Shock Symptoms & Treatment


Symptoms of anaphylactic shock may include a rash or hives, swelling of the face, throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, a rapid, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, and loss of consciousness.


The first line of treatment for anaphylactic shock is epinephrine, which can reverse the symptoms. Antihistamines and steroids may also be used to manage symptoms. If the person’s breathing or heart stops, CPR may be necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions About Anaphylactic Shock

What causes anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock can be caused by exposure to allergens such as certain foods, medications, insect stings, or latex. It’s an overreaction by the body’s immune system.

How is anaphylactic shock treated?

Anaphylactic shock is treated with immediate administration of epinephrine. Antihistamines and steroids may also be given to help manage symptoms. In severe cases, resuscitation efforts like CPR may be needed.


  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (n.d.). Anaphylaxis. Retrieved July 26, 2023, from
  2. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Anaphylaxis. Retrieved July 26, 2023, from