anaphylaxis Archives - Lifelab Testing

What is Anaphylaxis? The nitty-gritty

What is it?

Anaphylaxis (also known as ‘anaphylactic shock’ or ‘anaphylaxia’) is a severe allergic reaction that affects the patient’s airways, heart, circulation, gut, and skin. The reaction usually occurs within minutes of exposure to the triggering allergen but can begin up to 2 or even 3 hours after initial contact. This reaction is potentially life-threatening and should be treated immediately by a medical professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

As anaphylaxis affects various systems within the body, there are many signs and symptoms of the reaction.

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Wheezing and a tight test
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling weak and floppy
  • Swelling of the lips, throat or anywhere on the body
  • Collapsing and/or passing out         
  • Flushed skin (this may be widespread)
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Itchy rash (or hives)

Causes of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is almost exclusively caused by an allergy, with the vast majority of cases being triggered by one of the 14 major allergens;

  • celery
  • cereals containing gluten – including wheat, rye, barley and oats
  • crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters
  • eggs
  • fish
  • lupin
  • milk
  • molluscs – such as mussels and oysters
  • mustard
  • tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • soybeans
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million)

Having an allergy to any of these major allergens increases the risk of anaphylaxis. The incidence of anaphylaxis appears to be increasing in the UK. Between 1992 and 2012, the number of yearly hospital admissions tracked by the NHS increased by over 600%, from approximately 1,150 admissions to over 8,200 [1]. The trend seems to be continuing, with admission for under 18’s Between 2014 and 2019 has risen by a staggering 70% [2].

Treatment and Outlook

If you are experiencing a bout of anaphylaxis, it is important to act fast. The first course of action is to administer adrenaline. Pre-loaded auto-injectors containing adrenaline are prescribed to individuals at high risk of anaphylaxis. These auto-injectors should be available at all times – no exceptions.

Adrenaline is crucial in these first few minutes as it acts to rapidly open up the patient’s airways, get their blood pressure back up and stop any swelling. If you suspect that you’re experiencing anaphylaxis but aren’t certain, it is recommended that adrenaline is administered anyway – as it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Following administering adrenaline, an ambulance should be called immediately, even if the person’s condition improves upon injecting adrenaline. If their condition gets worse after making that initial 999 call, call them again to ensure an ambulance is dispatched, as you will be put on a higher priority. 5-10 minutes after the first adrenaline injection, a second shot should be administered if the symptoms of anaphylaxis remain. 

Remember, anaphylaxis always requires an immediate emergency response. In the US, an estimated in the US, an estimated, 1% of hospitalisations due to anaphylaxis have a fatal outcome [3], so medical attention is vital.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors associated with anaphylaxis that can be partly controlled or seen as times, to take extra precautionary measures. These include;

  • Poorly controlled asthma
  • Current or recent infection
  • Exercise prior to or shortly after contact with the allergen
  • Suffering from hay fever or other aeroallergen symptoms
  • Emotional stress
  • Drinking alcohol

Research has also highlighted a few other risk factors to be aware of. For example, this study found that as a patient’s age increases, their risk of developing severe cardiovascular symptoms increases substantially [4].  

Suffering from a pre-existing respiratory illness can also be a factor, as studies have shown that poor management of allergic bronchial asthma drastically increases the risk of severe anaphylaxis [5]

Lastly, it appears that male patients are more likely to develop anaphylaxis from insect venom compared to females [6]. This has been observed in both male adults and children.


The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to be aware of your allergies and be mindful to avoid them wherever possible. Many people are unaware of any allergies they may have, and most health professionals don’t carry out routine testing without prior evidence of an existing allergy or a family history.

Some people may feel that this is something they want to take into their own hands and opt for allergy testing to ensure they don’t remain ignorant of any potential allergies they may have.  

Final Thoughts

While the number of yearly deaths from anaphylaxis is relatively small, it still concerns us to know we may be at risk of anaphylaxis. And it’s far from an enjoyable experience either way. This life-threatening condition can be avoided with diligence and the knowledge of what your body may react adversely to.


[1] Turner, P.J., Gowland, M.H., Sharma, V., Ierodiakonou, D., Harper, N., Garcez, T., Pumphrey, R. and Boyle, R.J. (2015). Increase in anaphylaxis-related hospitalizations but no increase in fatalities: An analysis of United Kingdom national anaphylaxis data, 1992-2012. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 135(4), pp.956-963.e1. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[2] NHS Digital. (2018). Hospital admissions for allergies and anaphylactic shock – NHS Digital. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[3] Ma, L., Danoff, T.M. and Borish, L. (2014). Case fatality and population mortality associated with anaphylaxis in the United States. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, [online] 133(4), pp.1075–1083. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[4] Worm, M., Babina, M. and Hompes, S. (2013). Causes and risk factors for anaphylaxis. Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft = Journal of the German Society of Dermatology : JDDG, [online] 11(1), pp.44–50. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[5] Iribarren, C., Tolstykh, I.V., Miller, M.K. and Eisner, M.D. (2010). Asthma and the prospective risk of anaphylactic shock and other allergy diagnoses in a large integrated health care delivery system. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, [online] 104(5), pp.371–7. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

[6] Ruëff, F., et al. (2009). Predictors of severe systemic anaphylactic reactions in patients with Hymenoptera venom allergy: importance of baseline serum tryptase-a study of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology Interest Group on Insect Venom Hypersensitivity. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, [online] 124(5), pp.1047–54. Available at: [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis. The word itself can strike fear into those who know what it means, especially if they are suffering from food allergies which have wreaked havoc on their lives. There are many people who have suffered from allergy testing, but they do not always know what to do should they suffer an allergic reaction. However, at Lifelab Testing, we help people to try and improve their lives. See below more of the symptoms that you need to watch out for if you think that you are suffering from anaphylaxis.

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is one of the most extreme and severe allergic reactions, it can often lead to life-threatening situations. The whole of your body is affected and usually within minutes of you consuming a food that you are allergic to. A person suffering from anaphylaxis can also experience symptoms up to hours later, so it is vital that you stay away from problematic foods.

Severe allergic reactions: Symptoms

Although anaphylaxis is one of the most severe reactions, which is often life-threatening, there are other symptoms which present themselves if you eat a food which you are allergic to.

  • Swelling of throat and mouth (lips)
  • Struggling to speak
  • Struggling to breath
  • Severe asthma
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Drop in blood pressure

But which foods cause anaphylaxis?

There are some common foods which are often associated with allergies. Food labelling standards and requirements have been incredibly tightened up due to the issues that are being caused by foods. Almost everybody knows someone with an allergy to peanuts, but other foods include fish, eggs. shellfish and dairy products. It is important that you are able to differentiate between milk allergy and lactose intolerance, so please do be careful.

Unfortunately, there are some non-food items which you need to look out for, and these include wasp and bee stings, latex and even penicillin. So please do be careful before jumping into any of these items, and make sure that you do not have an allergy first.

For more information on allergy testing and identifying your allergies, please check out If you have any questions about any of our tests, don’t forget to speak to our customer service advisors who are available via our LiveChat service.

Am I Having an Allergic Reaction that needs Emergency Treatment?

The subject of allergy testing is a very pertinent one at this moment in time, as a number of high-profile deaths have been caused by incorrect allergy labelling at one of the UK’s largest sandwich shop chains. What these tragedies serve to highlight is that allergic reactions are a very real threat to health and to life itself. The most worrying thing is that without allergy testing, none of us really know if we’re at risk and if we can’t trust food manufacturers’ own labels about what their food contains, there’s a question that needs to be asked: If I’m having one, am I having an allergic reaction that needs emergency treatment?

The fact is that an allergic reaction to any given food type can develop at any point in our lives, which means that recognising the signs of a reaction is a good thing to know. Allergy testing, which can be used to effectively determine foods that your body has a problem dealing with, is something that we’ll elaborate on, but right now, we’ll look at the telltale signs that you’re having a reaction.

Signs of an Allergic Reaction

Without wishing to overplay the facts, being able to spot the symptoms associated with anaphylactic shock – the most severe type of reaction – and administer an EpiPen or other relevant medication, can in all truth, save yours or someone else’s life. In this situation, every moment counts.

Symptoms can vary a lot from one person to the next and each separate reaction can even manifest differently in the same person. However, all of the most common types to look out for, tend to fall within the following group:

Itchiness in the mouth or throat.

Any type of difficulty in breathing, such as wheezing or coughing.

● Difficulty swallowing.

● Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach pain.

An itchy redness to the skin, including raised red bumps, hives or welts.

● Mental confusion.

● Tightness or discomfort in the chest.

● Lightheadedness or dizziness.

● Low blood pressure, rapid pulse or heart palpitations.

● Fainting or loss of consciousness.

Important note: If you encounter any of the symptoms from the above list, it should be considered as an emergency and treated as anaphylaxis. This would usually involve the use of an EpiPen and calling an ambulance via 999, even if the symptoms pass. 

Biphasic anaphylaxis is something that can come back even stronger after a few hours and getting medical attention is highly recommended. Don’t assume that everything’s ok, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

Take Control

In order to manage food allergies properly, you need to know exactly what your body is allergic to. That’s where allergy testing comes in and at Lifelab Testing, we provide laboratory blood screening services from as little as £74.99. You’ll be tested against 25 key food and drink allergies, which will give you all you need to know about what foods to avoid and enable you to create strategies for coping with an attack.

Find out more about allergy testing and the wide range of services we provide on our website or give us a call now on 01332 32 18 92.

Click here to give our gluten-free halloween sweets blog a read.

Spotting the Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis

Allergic reactions are sometimes so mild that they go largely unnoticed by the sufferer, but they can also get so bad that they become life threatening. In the case of anaphylaxis, spotting it early can significantly reduce the chances of it becoming serious, so if someone in your family suffers from a reaction so severe that anaphylactic shock occurs, it’s really important that you know what to look out for.

The symptoms

On their own, some of the symptoms could be passed off as other, less severe ailments, but together, they are a warning light for something much more serious.

The tell-tale signs include:

❏ A racing pulse 
❏ Profuse, excessive sweating 
❏ Nausea and/or vomiting 
❏ A sudden change in skin colour or tone 
❏ Respiratory distress 
❏ Swelling or puffiness (particularly around the eyes and mouth)

If the symptoms listed above are continually unmonitored, the next stage of anaphylaxis is fainting and unconsciousness. If you haven’t already, by this point, you should be looking for immediate medical attention, as it has now become a life-threatening condition.

Staying Calm

If this happens in your presence, it is vital that you stay calm and controlled as your panic could just make the problem worse, particularly if you’re dealing with a child or someone of a nervous disposition. Anaphylaxis often results in respiratory distress, which in itself can be extremely frightening, but you must stay as calm and relaxed as possible.

If the person concerned has fallen into unconsciousness, the best thing you can do is to put them into the recovery position and wait until medical services arrive.

Finding Out Before an Attack Happens

Unfortunately, many people are unaware they have severe reactions to a particular substance until they have had an attack of anaphylaxis, as an allergy like this can develop at any stage of life. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the case and you can get yourself tested against up to 25 different allergens with

Simply visit our website, order your test and wait for your pack to come through the post. You then just need to activate your test and send us your blood sample, which will be tracked throughout its journey. Once we have screened your sample against a wide range of allergens, we’ll let you know by email and tell you how to access your results online.

It’s that simple.

If you’d still like to know more, then take a look round our website, which is packed with info or if you’d like a chat with one of our expert team, log into ‘live chat’ and start talking.

Anaphylaxis, like many other types of allergic reaction, is eminently avoidable, but you can only do so if you know what you’re dealing with. It could literally be a question of life and death, which sounds dramatic, but is regrettably true.

Take control of your life and get yourself tested today. We’re just a few taps of the keyboard away!