Health conditions

Anaphylaxis

  • Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening.
  • It should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment with adrenaline.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has warned that some batches of EpiPen adrenaline injectors sold to treat allergies and anaphylaxis have been recalled. Read more.

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to substances (allergens) in the environment that are harmless for most people, such as food proteins, pollen, dust mites, insect stings and bites.

Allergic reactions can range from being mild to severe (anaphylaxis).

Some people wear a medical warning bracelet to identify their severe allergies.

What causes it?

Anaphylaxis is most commonly caused by food allergies.

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, however the following nine foods cause 90 per cent of allergic reactions in Australia:

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts (for example hazelnuts, cashews and almonds)
  • eggs
  • cow's milk
  • wheat
  • soybean
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • sesame.

Other causes of anaphylaxis include:

  • medications
  • anaesthesia
  • latex (products made from latex include dummies for babies, rubber bands, balloons, shoe soles, condoms, gloves, catheters and stethoscopes)
  • insect bites and stings, particularly bee stings.
What are the signs and symtoms?

Mild to moderate allergic reaction

  • swelling of the lips, face, eyes
  • hives or welts
  • tingling mouth
  • abdominal pain or vomiting.

Severe allergic reaction

Watch for any one of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty or noisy breathing
  • swelling of tongue
  • swelling or tightness in throat
  • difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
  • wheeze or persistent cough
  • persistent dizziness or collapse
  • young children may appear pale and floppy.

Who is at increased risk?

Having unstable asthma increases the risk of death from anaphylaxis, particularly in those with food allergies.

How is it treated?

Anaphylaxis should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment with adrenaline.

Read more about adrenaline auto-injectors (EpiPen®) and how to use them.

If left untreated

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening.

It should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment with adrenaline.

If you know or care for someone at risk of anaphylaxis, it is important to know their allergic triggers and to have a plan to minimise their risk of exposure to known allergens. This includes raising the awareness of causes of anaphylaxis and treatment plans with carers, friends and the community.

Where to get help

  • If you have severe symptoms, always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency
  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction.
  • It is potentially life threatening and should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment with adrenaline.
  • The most effective first aid treatment for anaphylaxis is adrenaline, administered with an adrenaline auto injector.

Acknowledgements

PMH


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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