An allergic reaction to cayenne pepper that causes swollen lips is alarming. Lip swelling is a sign of a severe allergic reaction that could result in death if not treated. You can develop a food allergy to any food if your immune system fails to recognize the proteins in that food as safe. Cayenne pepper is not a common allergen, but it can trigger minor to severe symptoms if your immune system is hypersensitive to cayenne pepper proteins.
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Cayenne Pepper Allergy
Consuming cayenne pepper may cause indigestion and heartburn in many people, but if you develop other symptoms you may have an allergy. An allergic reaction is the result of a malfunction in your immune system. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains that the immune system interprets molecules in cayenne pepper as intruders and the body responds by releasing immunoglobulin E antibodies to fight them off. This triggers various chemicals to be released, resulting in food allergy symptoms.
Common symptoms of a food allergy include nasal congestion, shortness of breath, skin rashes, hives and digestive complications. Facial swelling, lip swelling, tongue swelling and throat swelling are all symptoms of a severe reaction. During an allergic reaction, your body releases a chemical called histamine, which dilates your blood vessels and constricts your soft tissues. When the entire body overreacts to cayenne pepper consumption, you may develop a condition called anaphylaxis.
During anaphylaxis the excessive release of antibodies, histamine and other chemicals causes the body to enter a state of shock, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Common symptoms of anaphylaxis include palpitations, lip swelling, severe abdominal pain, increased heart rate, faint pulse, the feeling of impending doom, a drop in blood pressure and dizziness, according to MedlinePlus. Anaphylaxis symptoms typically occur within seconds of ingesting cayenne pepper and can cause serious health complications within a matter of minutes. The patient needs immediate emergency care.
Treatment for a cayenne allergy that causes swollen lips is an injection of epinephrine. Epinephrine is a prescribed medication that is injected into the body as soon as symptoms of anaphylaxis begin. The medication causes blood vessels to constrict and restores the lungs to their normal state. If epinephrine is injected and your lip swelling subsides, you still need to go to the emergency room because the medication may wear off within 15 minutes.