Allergies and Anaphylaxis

Dr. David Khan with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

With the beauty of Autumn comes the not-so-attractive effects of the fall allergy season. On one end of the spectrum are people suffering from sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, coughs, congestion and scratchy throats. But on the other end of the spectrum is allergic reaction that can lead to serious ailments and even death.

In fact, at least 1,500 people die in the United States each year from anaphylaxis – a sudden and severe allergic reaction. Almost every death, say medical professionals, could be prevented if medication is administered quickly. That is the impetus for a new educational campaign in many communities around the country focused on recognizing symptoms.

Allergist Dr. David Khan, program chair for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Arlington Heights, Illinois, describes a life-threatening reaction as one that affects two or more parts of the body at once. While hives, swelling and trouble breathing are common clues, it's not always that obvious, and more could be going on internally.

Dr. Khan says they're also getting the word out about the higher death risk for people with asthma.

The campaign is called ACE, which stands for Anaphylaxis Community Experts. Dr. Khan says anaphylaxis is most often caused by exposure to certain foods, stinging insects, latex, medications and exercise. It can happen to anyone at any time, even if they have not reacted before.

Dr. Khan advises those with known triggers to carry auto-injectable epinephrine with them at all times.

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