Anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction!

This week is Allergy awareness week (28th April – 4th May) so we wanted to make you aware of Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction! Allergies affect approximately 1 in 3 of the population of the UK at some point in their lives. Allergic conditions can affect all ages, take on many different forms and vary in severity from the mildest hayfever to life threatening anaphylaxis.

There are a huge variety of things we can be allergic to, below is a list of just some of them:

  • Pollen from flowers and trees
  • Pets
  • Eggs, Milk and Nuts
  • Fish
  • Wheat and seeds
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Drugs and Alcohol

As there are so many different types of allergy we have left it up to the experts at Allergy UK to go into detail about what they are and how they can affect you, you can read all about them here.


Anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction!

Although many allergies can be treated with medication and aren’t necessarily life threatening, Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. It is counted as a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. The chemicals that cause the allergic symptoms (e.g. Histamine) are released into the bloodstream. This is why the symptoms can be seen not only at the contact site but all over the body. These symptoms can be seen within minutes of coming into contact with the cause but sometimes can take hours to show themselves. The most common causes of anaphylactic reactions are certain foods (e.g. peanuts, shellfish etc), insect stings and drugs.


Symptoms of Anaphylaxis?

The symptoms of anaphylaxis can be mild or severe but as it can be a medical emergency we have listed them all for you below:
Mild Symptoms

  • Swelling of the face, lips and eyes
  • A red blotchy skin rash
  • Tingling mouth
  • Runny, itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Stomach cramps and vomiting (possible signs of an insect sting)

Severe Symptoms

  • Swelling of the tongue and / or throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • Wheeze or persistent cough
  • Difficult, noisy breathing
  • Dizziness and / or collapse
  • Unconsciousness

Treatment of a severe allergic reaction

Although many people take anti-histamines when they show the symptoms of an allergic reaction they can take a long time to work and in the more severe reactions it is not an adequate treatment. Sit or lie the casualty down (do not allow them to stand or walk around) and ask them about their allergy. Find out how much of the allergen they have come into contact with and when and ask them if they have an auto-injector pen.

Auto-injector pens (Epi-pens) contain epinephrine (adrenalin) which reduces the symptoms of the allergic reaction within minutes. The adrenalin is given by injecting it into the thigh muscle so it can quickly get into the bloodstream. Most people carry them in their bag or car or keep them in their desk draw.


Once you have located their Epi-pen encourage them to use it straight away. Adrenalin is a short acting drug so once it has been administered call 999 / 112 straight away and advise them that the casualty is suffering from anaphylaxis. Keep the casualty warm, make a note of their symptoms and reassure them that help is on the way. If the casualty becomes unconscious before they can use their Epi-pen, call 999 / 112 and they will advise you how to do it if you are happy to do so.

If you would like to learn more about how to treat casualties in any emergency situation, please have a look at our courses page for a variety of different options.

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