Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis was a rare sight in hospital emergency wards a generation ago. Today, it is increasingly common. Hospitalisation for food allergy anaphylaxis in Australia has doubled over the past decade, and increased five-fold in infants.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening medical emergency. Urgent medical attention is vital. In the case of suspected anaphylaxis administer EpiPen immediately as detailed in the ‘Anaphylaxis Action Plan’ or:

  • Dial 000 and ask for ambulance or;
  • Urgently visit your nearest hospital emergency department

Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Around 4000 Australians suffer an anaphylactic reaction each year. Those with a history of food allergyinsect sting allergyeczema and asthma are at higher risk. However, many cases of anaphylaxis have never had a serious allergic reaction in the past.

Food and insect sting allergies are the most common cause of anaphylaxis. Reactions present quickly and escalate rapidly. Symptoms typically present within 15 minutes to a few hours of the allergic trigger being encountered. They can rapidly become life-threatening.

EpiPens should be on hand and easily accessible at all times to anybody who has a severe allergy or history of anaphylaxis.

Causes

Technically, anaphylaxis can be triggered by any allergen. However, the more common allergic triggers include:

  • foods
  • insect stings
  • medications (pharmaceutical, herbal, prescription and over-the-counter)
  • latex

Symptoms

Anaphylaxis often presents and impacts on several areas and systems of the body at the same time. Skin, gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous system can all be affected. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of throat and mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • Difficulty in breathing – due to severe asthma or throat swelling
  • Hives anywhere on the body, especially large hives
  • Generalised flushing of the skin
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure)
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

Treatment

Once the allergen has been correctly diagnosed, anaphylaxis can be safely and effectively managed and treated. As with all allergic reactions—but none more so than anaphylaxis—prevention is the best and safest cure.

Awareness and preparedness are vital. An anaphylaxis action plan prepared or authorised by your doctor is essential. Extreme caution must be exercised in the case of children and caregivers.

Depending on the allergen, anaphylaxis treatment options include:

  • adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen)
  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • anaphylaxis action plan
  • immunotherapy or desensitisation
  • risk reduction
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids

Allergy Medical will provide you with the knowledge, skills and support to safely and effectively manage anaphylaxis, including preparing a detailed anaphylaxis action plan.

To see how we could help you, just ask us.

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