There are three main substance categories that life-threatening allergens fall into: food, insects, and medications. Exposure to one of these allergens can cause immediate anaphylaxis, which can include symptoms like throat swelling, rash or hives, dizziness, and dangerously low blood pressure. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can cause death. 

Symptoms of anaphylaxis can appear seconds or hours after exposure to the allergen but at the first signs of anaphylaxis it’s critical to seek immediate medical attention.  Some of the most common life-threatening food allergies are:

  • Peanuts: the most common food allergy 
  • Walnuts, cashews, and other tree nuts
  • Milk and other dairy products
  •  Legumes  such as soy bean, lentils, and green beans: peanuts are also a technically a legume
  • Crab, shrimp, lobster, and other shellfish: sometimes even just the cooking vapors of these foods can cause a reaction

The top foods that cause the most sever allergies — milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and wheat — must be listed on all ingredients labels. That being said, it’s good to be mindful of derivative products, like whey, which is made from milk.

Insects bites and stings can also cause severe allergies in people. Stings from bees, wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets, bites from aunts and ticks are the most common. An allergist can prescribe medications that can help to prevent anaphylaxis caused by stings and bites.

Antibiotics like penicillin as well as over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can also cause severe allergic reactions. Oftentimes your physician can prescribe alternate medications to account for allergies.


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