The name Anaphylaxis comes from the Greek:
ανα = ana (against) and
Φύλαξις = phylaxis (protection)
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. It is potentially life threatening and needs to be treated as a medical emergency.
Anaphylaxis is a generalised allergic reaction that often involves two or more body systems that can be affected simultaneously, including the upper and lower respiratory tracts, cardiovascular system, and the gastrointestinal tract.
A severe allergic reaction may occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen (trigger).
Why some people are at risk of anaphylaxis and others aren’t?
Some people’s immune systems are particularly sensitive to allergens and therefore quickly attack foreign substances. Consequently, even the smallest traces of these perceived foreign substances can cause a severe allergic reaction.
What are the most common triggers of anaphylaxis?
Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children1. Studies suggest that individuals at-risk of anaphylaxis are most affected by the following triggers:
- Food: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, cows’ milk
- Insect venom: including bee, wasp and others
- Medications: penicillin
- Food induced exercise and other unknown causes.
What are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?
The most common signs (what you and others may see happening) and symptoms (what you may feel) of anaphylaxis are:
- Sudden itching
- Swelling of the face, lips, eyes and tongue
- Hives or welts on the skin
- Breathing difficulty, tightness of the throat
- Barky cough, wheezing, difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty talking
- Stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting
- Rapid heart beat
- Loss of consciousness
- Pale and floppy (young children).
It’s important to learn and be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. Once identified, first-line treatment and medical assistance should be sought immediately.
How can anaphylaxis be managed?
The management of anaphylaxis should include an individualised action plan; community strategies to avoid allergens and prevent the reoccurrence of an anaphylactic reaction; and emergency treatment. For further information, speak with your healthcare professional.
- Have an individualised management plan prepared by your doctor.
- Implement your management plan within your community by making everyone around you aware of the following:
- Allergens you have identified as triggers
- Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
- What to do in the event of an anaphylactic reaction
- Keep your ASCIA Action Plan and an adrenaline auto-injector with you all at times.
Responding to an emergency allergic reaction
Anaphylaxis must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention.1,2
Adrenaline, the only medication indicated for the treatment of anaphylaxis2, quickly reverses symptoms and should be administered as soon as a severe allergic reaction occurs.
Adrenaline auto-injectors can be life saving1 and may be self-administered or administered by a non-medical person. Adrenaline auto-injectors should only be used as directed. For further information talk to your doctor.
Regular training using a training device pen, avoidance of allergens and comprehensive awareness are critical to maintaining an effective management plan for anaphylaxis.
Adrenaline auto-injectors are not a substitute for emergency medical attention. Always call an ambulance in the event of an anaphylactic reaction.