How can an allergic reaction become life threatening?


Allergic reactions can cause breathing problems. At first the reaction may appear to be just a rash and a feeling of tightness in the chest and throat, but this condition can become life threatening. The person’s face, neck and tongue may swell, closing the airway.

An allergic reaction can become life threatening depending on your body's response to the allergen. In allergies, your body senses the allergen (peanuts, for example) and thinks it is a threat. How our bodies fight threats is by sending lots of chemicals and fluid to the area. This is how you get a runny nose, watery eyes and other symptoms.

This reaction can become life threatening if the fluid and chemicals cause swelling of your lips, tongue and/or throat. If this happens, the swelling can get so bad, it makes it hard to breathe. If left untreated, it can get even harder to breathe, potentially leading to unconsciousness and even death.

On their own, skin allergies are not usually life-threatening. However, if skin allergy reactions are just a small aspect of a bigger allergic reaction, it can be fatal. For example, if a person develops hives after eating peanuts, that person could also experience severe swelling of the airways, causing them to stop breathing. Usually, though, a skin allergy alone may be a painful or irritating condition for a few days or weeks, but it isn't a life-threatening condition.

Continue Learning about Allergies



About one out of five Americans suffers from allergies. An allergy is an exaggerated response from the immune system to a substance such as dust, pollen, pet dander or mold. Other common triggers include foods such as peanuts and ...

milk; insect bites; and certain ingredients in cosmetics and jewelry. Allergies can cause anything from rashes and hives to itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, and wheezing.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.