Anaphylaxis is a severe, allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. Food is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, but insect stings, medicine, latex, or exercise can also cause a reaction. Anaphylaxis can involve various areas of your body (such as the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system). Symptoms can occur within minutes, or sometimes up to two hours after contact with the allergy-causing substance, and, in rare instances, may occur up to four hours later. Anaphylactic reactions can be mild to life-threatening.
Doctors define asthma as a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway that causes shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. Asthma has no set pattern. Its symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, can vary from person to person, can flare up from time to time and then not appear for long periods, and can vary from one episode to the next.
When severe asthma attacks occur, the person becomes less and less able to breathe and may have trouble talking. As the person breathes, the neck muscles may become tight. Lips and fingernails might have a grayish or bluish color. The skin around the ribs of the chest might be sucked in (happening most often in children). Waiting too long to get help can lead to serious trouble and can even lead to death. The cause of asthma is not known, and currently there is no cure.
For more information about severe asthma attacks, please visit these sites:
The Asthma Society of Canada: www.asthma.ca
The American Lung Association: www.lungusa.org
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood glucose levels drop too low. When a person suffers from hypoglycemia, the symptoms may include shakiness, dizziness, sweating, hunger, headache, pale skin color, sudden moodiness or behavior changes (such as crying for no apparent reason), clumsy or jerky movements, a seizure, confusion or difficulty paying attention, and tingling sensations around the mouth. Some people have no symptoms of hypoglycemia. They may lose consciousness without ever knowing their blood glucose levels were dropping. This problem is called hypoglycemia unawareness.
Hypoglycemia unawareness tends to happen to people who have had diabetes for many years. Hypoglycemia unawareness does not happen to everyone. It is more likely to occur in people who have neuropathy (nerve damage), people on tight glucose control, and people who take certain heart or high blood pressure medicines.
As the years go by, many people continue to have symptoms of hypoglycemia, but the symptoms change. When this happens, someone may not recognize a reaction because it feels different.
For more information about diabetic hypoglycemia, please visit these sites:
The Canadian Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.ca
The American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org
Epilepsy is a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder - a disorder that affects the brain and shows itself in the form of seizures. Epilepsy is a disorder, not a disease; it is not contagious.
An epileptic seizure (often called a fit, an attack, a turn, or a blackout) happens when ordinary brain activity is suddenly disrupted. The seizures described here are epileptic and arise from the brain.
Epileptic seizures can take many forms since the brain is responsible for such a wide range of functions that include:
Any of these functions may be temporarily disturbed during the course of a seizure.
Angina (angina pectoris is the full medical term) is chest pain. It is sometimes described as ’pressure’ or ’discomfort’ rather than pain; it may also radiate to the throat, jaw, back, or arms. Angina usually follows a predictable pattern. Pain generally occurs near the same point when exercising and/or under emotional stress. The pain usually comes on with activity and/or emotional stress and goes away with rest and/or nitroglycerin within three to five minutes. Angina is a warning signal. It is the heart muscle’s way of telling the body that it is being forced to work too hard and needs to slow down.
Angina can also occur in people with valvular heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (this is an enlarged heart due to disease), or uncontrolled high blood pressure. These cases are rare, though.