|anaphylactic shock (ān'ə-fə-lāk'tĭk) Pronunciation Key
A sudden, life-threatening allergic reaction, characterized by dilation of blood vessels with a sharp drop in blood pressure and bronchial spasm with shortness of breath. anaphylactic shock is caused by exposure to a foreign substance, such as a drug or bee venom, to which the individual has been previously exposed. The substances act as antigens, provoking a preliminary immune response during the first exposure that results in a full-blown, immediate response during secondary exposure, called an immediate hypersensitivity reaction. Emergency treatment, including epinephrine injections, must be administered to prevent death. Also called anaphylaxis.