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Feb 12, 2010 12:30 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Simple rash could signal health crisis

A red, itchy rash could be the first sign of a life-threatening reaction to food, medication or insect bites. It could be anaphylaxis -- a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes breathing problems, loss of consciousness, and possibly death.

The leading cause of Anaphylactic deaths is medications. Common culprits are penicillin and other antibiotics, aspirin and aspirin-related products, muscle relaxants, seizure medications and dyes used during certain procedures such as nuclear imaging. People with allergies or asthma are more likely to have an anaphylactic reaction to shots.

Foods that most commonly cause the reaction in children are eggs, peanuts, wheat and milk. In adults, the causes most often are shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts and other legumes.

Stings from insects such as bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants can cause anaphylaxis. Bites from the "kissing bug" and deer fly also cause the reaction. Experts estimate that at least 40 deaths per year are caused by anaphylaxis to insect stings.

Intense exercise, particularly in hot weather, can bring on anaphylaxis. Sometimes this only occurs with exercise after eating celery, shellfish, wheat, peaches or other specific foods to which the person is allergic.

To diagnose allergies before they produce a deadly reaction, contact you doctor to conduct allergy testing.

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