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Allergies

Anaphylactic shock

12/26/2007

Question:

Can Anaphylactic shock be triggered by an "allergy" to smoke? When I went camping over a period of about three days, smoke was around all the time both from cigarette smoke and from fires from closeby campsites. One night all the smoke was sitting because no wind was pushing it away. I ended up having difficulty breathing, and I was not able to stand or walk on my own. I struggled to remain concious and when I was able to get into the camper for clean air I could barely move. I could move with fingers with all my strength, but I wouldn`t be able to life my leg. My breathing became really irregular and scarce. As time passed, I was able to move again and my breathing became more regular. In the morning I had fully recovered, but I was more sensitive to the smoke outside and I would show a few of the same symptoms again. After doing some research the only way I can explain what happened is anaphylactic shock, although it doesn`t really fit the criteria. So, if what happened to me is not anaphylactic shock, then what happened?

Answer:

Unless there was something other than wood being burned, anaphylactic shock to smoke would be extremely unlikely. The symptoms you are describing sound like smoke inhalation injury, possibly carbon monoxide poisoning. It is possible that there could have been something in the fire, plastic, chemicals or something else that when inhaled could have caused symptoms, but this is tough to know unless you know what was burned.

Anaphylaxis is a constellation of symptoms that comes after contact with an allergy causing substance, smoke is not a typical allergy causing substance. I agree with you that your symptoms don't fit with anaphylaxis.

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Response by:

David  Hauswirth, MD David Hauswirth, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Pulmonary, Allergy, Crtitical Care & Sleep
Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University