Font Size
A
A
A
...
5
...

Shock (cont.)

Anaphylactic Shock

When the body develops an allergic reaction to some outside chemical or substance, it can activate its immune system to combat that substance. On occasion, there can be an excess response and multiple organ systems in the body can be affected and fail. This is known as anaphylaxis. Mast cells and basophils (a type of white blood cell) that contain histamine become unstable and leak their contents to affect the muscles of the lung, heart and blood vessels. These are smooth muscles that are part of the regulatory system of the body and are not under conscious control.

  • The muscles that surround bronchial tubes go into spasm and cause wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • The muscles that surround blood vessels dilate, causing blood pressure to drop.
  • The histamine also causes flushing of the skin, urticaria (hives), vomiting and diarrhea.
  • A variety of mechanisms cause the heart muscle to pump weakly and blood vessels to leak fluid.

The combination of these effects decrease blood flow and oxygen supply to cells in the body and can result in shock.

The most common causes of anaphylactic shock include allergic reactions to foods (especially peanuts), antibiotics, and bee and wasp stings. Children are often allergic to eggs, soy, and milk.

These allergens can cause the immune system to turn on the potential cascade to shock. Many patients have allergic reactions that are less severe and can just involve hives, but others can develop shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling of the tongue and mouth, and difficulty swallowing.

Initial treatment for major allergic reactions include calling 911 and activating the emergency response system. Medical interventions include injections of antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), corticosteroids and adrenaline (epinephrine).

Patients with major allergic reactions must try to avoid the chemical trigger. They also often carry an Epipen (epinephrine injection kit) to inject themselves with epinephrine should an allergic reaction occur.

Next Page:
...
5
...

Must Read Articles Related to Shock

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe lung condition caused by trauma, sepsis, pancreatitis, aspiration, drug overdose, and massive blood trans...learn more >>
Insulin Reaction
Insulin Reaction An insulin reaction occurs when an individual with diabetes experiences hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and becomes confused or unconscious. Causes of insulin re...learn more >>
Low Blood Pressure
Low Blood Pressure Low blood pressure (hypotension) may be caused by heart conditions, intravascular fluid complications (dehydration, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding), me...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Shock:

Shock - Treatment

What was the treatment for your shock?




Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Shock, Distributive »

Shock is defined as a clinical syndrome due to inadequate tissue perfusion that results in end-organ dysfunction.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary