GEORGE NEWS - World Allergy Week is an event organised by the World Allergy Organisation to improve allergy awareness worldwide.
This year, from 13 to 19 June, we will focus on anaphylaxis, to be aware of the condition, be prepared to make the diagnosis and treat according to guidelines to save lives. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have learned how important awareness of a condition and its treatment modalities is.
We have also been confronted with the tremendous fear factor of "not knowing" if this condition will be fatal for our loved ones and whether the correct medication will be available and administered.
Anaphylaxis is defined as a severe, life-threatening systemic hypersensitivity reaction. It is characterised by a rapid onset and potentially life-threatening impairment of the airway, breathing or circulatory system, usually but not necessarily associated with skin and mucosal changes.
The gastro-intestinal tract might also be affected in some patients.
The most common causes of anaphylaxis are foods, medication and insect stings. In South Africa the most common trigger is bee venom allergy, but reactions to food allergens are on the increase, according to Prof Levi, CEO of the Allergy Foundation of South Africa (Afsa).
Common food triggers include nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk. Medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anesthesia drugs, radiocontrast media used in the X-ray department and antibiotics would be among the triggers in a hospital setting, not forgetting latex as a possible culprit!
There are risk factors for anaphylaxis such as poorly controlled asthma and co-factors including exercise, alcohol, acute infections and NSAIDs.
The latter will explain why patients and doctors battle to identify a specific food if it does not always cause a reaction. Investigating the details of a patient's food history like Sherlock Holmes would, will help solve this mystery!
Allergy testing would be of essence to confirm the diagnosis and to avoid unnecessary avoidance and fear. Desensitisation can be done for bee venom allergy.
The treatment of anaphylaxis is always intra-muscular adrenalin. This can be from a normal vial with a syringe or it can be an auto-injector. Every patient with a history of anaphylaxis should be equipped with adrenalin and a detailed treatment plan.
Contact Dr Corli Lodder at the Allergy & Asthma Clinic (044 050 1415) in the Red River Centre, 27 Arbour Road, Heatherlands. Send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit www.allergydoctor.co.za.
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