A sudden and potentially fatal allergic reaction, anaphylaxis can affect the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).

Symptoms can occur within minutes or up to two hours after contact with the allergy-causing substance and can be relatively mild or life-threatening.

An anaphylactic reaction may begin with a tingling sensation, itching or metallic taste in the mouth. Other symptoms can include hives, a sensation of warmth, wheezing, coughing, swelling of the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.

Common sources of anaphylaxis include foods, medications, insect stings and latex.

Epinephrine, the drug commonly used to treat an anaphylactic reaction, should be administered as soon as possible. People who have a history of anaphylactic shock should carry an EpiPen, a form of self-injectable epinephrine. If you suspect this kind of reaction in you or someone else, seek emergency help immediately.

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