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How can an allergic reaction become life threatening?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

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.

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.

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.

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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.