Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction that requires emergency medical attention. Exposure to an allergen, or trigger, can cause immediate and life-threatening symptoms such as breathing difficulties. Treatment involves an injection of adrenaline, usually given with an adrenaline auto-injector device.
Insect sting are the most common cause of anaphylaxis. Other causes include medications or latex allergies. Occasionally the trigger cannot be identified, despite extensive investigation.
Food: Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy are the most common food triggers, which cause 90 percent of allergic reactions; however, any food can trigger anaphylaxis. It is important to understand that in some people even very small amounts of food can cause a life-threatening reaction. Some extremely sensitive individuals can react to just the smell of particular foods being cooked (e.g. fish) or even kissing someone who has eaten the food they’re allergic to.
Insect sting and bites: Bee, wasp and jack jumper ant stings are the most common triggers of anaphylaxis to insect stings. Ticks, green ants and fire ants can also trigger anaphylaxis in susceptible individuals.
- Difficult/noisy breathing
- Swelling of the tongue
- Swelling or tightness in the throat
- Difficulty talking or hoarse voice
- Wheeze or persistent cough
- Persistent dizziness or collapse
- Pale and floppy (young children)
Anaphylaxis is a preventable and treatable event. Knowing the triggers is the most important step in prevention.
Children and caregivers need to be educated on how to avoid food allergens and/or other triggers. However, because accidental exposure is a reality, children and caregivers need to be able to recognise the symptoms of an anaphylaxis and be prepared to administer adrenaline according to the individual’s Action Plan for Anaphylaxis.