Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal severe allergic reaction
Some allergies can lead to a severe allergic reaction - known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Symptoms can occur quickly or within hours following contact with an allergen. Prompt treatment can save your life. If you have an adrenaline auto-injector - use it immediately.
Common causes of anaphylaxis are wasp and bee stings as well as food, such as peanuts, nuts, sesame seed, fish and shellfish, dairy products and egg. Other causes include latex, penicillin and some other medications.
For some, fatigue or exercise may cause anaphylaxis - alone or in combination with other triggers like food or medication. Cold can also be a cause. In rare cases a reaction can occur without apparent cause.
Because the onset of anaphylaxis can be very fast, an adrenaline auto-injector should be used without delay as soon as anaphylaxis is suspected, followed immediately by dialling 999 to summon emergency medical help. An auto-injector should be administered, even if in doubt. There are a number of possible signs of anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction). Any one of the following signs/symptoms is enough to warrant immediate use of an adrenaline auto-injector:
- Swelling in the throat, tongue or upper airways (tightening of the throat, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing)
- Sudden onset wheezing, breathing difficulty, noisy breathing
- Dizziness, feeling faint, sudden sleepiness, tiredness, confusion, pale clammy skin, loss of consciousness
Do not delay in administering an adrenaline auto-injector if you have any of the above signs or symptoms, even if you also have signs that you would normally associate with a milder reaction (such as an itchy throat or swelling of your lips). Take notice of severe signs and symptoms, regardless of what else is happening to you.
If in any doubt about severity, or if previous reactions have been severe, an adrenaline auto-injector should be used. If there is no improvement 5 minutes after the first injection, or if there is a deterioration after an initial improvement, the second auto-injector should be used whilst waiting for the ambulance. Other medicines such as antihistamines and inhalers can be given as necessary.
Avoiding the allergens to which you are sensitive is the best way to prevent allergic reactions or anaphylaxis.
Adrenaline is first line treatment for anaphylaxis. If you have an adrenaline auto-injector - use it immediately.
How adrenaline works
Anaphylaxis is caused by the sudden release of substances from cells into blood and tissues. These substances, primarily histamine, have an effect on blood vessels and cause swelling in the mouth and throat. Blood pressure falls and abdominal pain can occur. Dizziness, fainting and shock may follow.
Adrenaline rapidly constricts blood vessels and relaxes smooth muscles in the lungs. This helps breathing, stimulates the heart and prevents continued swelling of the face and lips.
Who is at risk of
A person who has previously experienced anaphylaxis - irrespective of cause - is at risk in the future. If you have experienced an anaphylactic reaction - even if it was a mild one - you should contact your doctor.
If the reaction was caused by peanuts, shellfish or fish, it should not be ignored, even if mild. This is especially important if the reaction was caused by peanuts. This is also the case for certain drugs, insect stings or latex. Your doctor will give you essential information and prescribe suitable medication.
Make sure you understand your doctor’s instructions. If you have an Emerade adrenaline auto-injector, read the instructions carefully. Online you will find a instruction video and you can order training device.
Tell your friends, colleagues and teachers that you are at risk of anaphylaxis and show them how to use your adrenaline auto-injector. Explain what to do in an emergency and that they should call an ambulance.
Always carry two Emerade with you.
When you get
Use your adrenaline auto-injector immediately if you have any signs of anaphylaxis. If in doubt use. Don't delay.
- Dial 999 - say anaphylaxis ("ana-fill-axis") - straight after using your auto-injector.
- Lie down and raise your legs.
- Sit up if you are struggling to breathe but don't change position suddenly.
- Lie down again as soon as you can.
- Stay lying down even if you are feeling better.
- You must not stand up even if someone encourages you to.
- Use second AAI after 5 minutes if no improvement.