'Anaphylaxis' is an immunological description of a type I hypersensitivity reaction which is mediated by IgE or IgG. The term is also used clinically to describe a variable group of symptoms produced by a number of mechanisms. Anaphylaxis is an example of a host defense mechanism becoming hostile, similar to septic shock. Many of the same mediators are involved, but their release is more rapid and less well sustained. Histamine is the early major mediator, but plasma levels may normalize within a short period of time, with other mediators being responsible for the maintenance of the clinical state. The term 'clinical anaphylaxis' is used to describe the clinical state irrespective of the mechanism, and in this context the term implies severity.

'Anaphylactoid' is used to describe anaphylaxis-like reactions not involving IgE antibodies. Frequently, the mechanism of reaction eludes detection with current techniques. It is best to assume that all such reactions are immune mediated, and subsequent exposure to the precipitating agent should be avoided.

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