WHAT IS ANAPHYLAXIS?
Anaphylaxis (also known as anaphylactic shock or an anaphylactic reaction) is the most severe form and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate treatment and urgent medical attention. The reaction can occur within seconds, minutes or hours after exposure to an allergen, such as those found in foods, insects or medicines.
If anaphylaxis is not treated immediately, commonly with epinephrine, it can be fatal. If you experience or are in the presence of someone that is experiencing anaphylaxis/ encountering an immediate serious reaction (this may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, throat tightening, swelling, collapse, etc), call or have someone call triple zero (000) immediately.
They may be characterised by:
- Difficult/noisy breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
- Paleness and floppiness (in small children)
- Wheeze or persistent cough
- Persistent dizziness and/or collapse
- Abdominal pain and vomiting
- Hives or welts
The validity and severity of these symptoms are dependent on the individual and the level of exposure, as determined by a qualified health care provider.
Anaphylaxis is preventable and treatable. Knowledge and testing are the first forms of prevention.
If you or someone you know is suspected of having an allergy that can cause anaphylaxis, or an allergy in general, it's key to visit a qualified health care provider such as a General Practitioner or Allergy Specialist that deals with anaphylaxis for diagnosis and advice on management plus the set up of an emergency treatment Allergy Action Plan in the case of a reaction.
This will also ensure that the at-risk individual carries all the necessary and prescribed emergency medication, and a signed copy of their Allergy Action Plan, so they are prepared and ready at all times in the case of a reaction.
A common emergency and immediate treatment of anaphylaxis is the administration of adrenaline, also called epinephrine, as a first line treatment. This is used to treat anaphylaxis unless otherwise advised on the individuals action plan, as some individuals may not be able to use adrenaline/ epinephrine due to their particular reasons related to individual conditions or other allergies.
Epinephrine acts quickly and if administered in time improves breathing, stimulates the heart, raises a dropping blood pressure, reverses hives, and reduces swelling of the face, lips, and throat.
Remember to follow your or the allergic persons allergy action plan and call or have someone call triple zero (000) immediately.
Also keep in mind that an individual who has a history of eczema or asthma may be at a higher risk of severe allergic reactions and may also have overlapping symptoms with their individual situation.
Not all allergy reactions result in anaphylaxis, however understanding the risk factors and symptoms is critical to set up informed management strategies.
Always present your Allergy Card, Medical Alert Bracelet or Necklace to ensure health care providers, family members, friends, colleagues and others are aware of your Allergy or Allergies.
20 percent of Australians (1 in 5) are affected by allergies and anaphylaxis. This figure includes allergies to foods, drugs, insects, venoms, ticks, environmental allergens such as pollen and grasses, latex and chemical products used in cleaning and cosmetics.
The Common Triggers:
Food- A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body believes is harmful, triggering an immune system response that releases chemicals that can affect a person’s breathing, gastrointestinal tract, skin, heart and more.
There are currently more than 170 foods known to have triggered severe allergic reactions, however there are 10 main foods that are the most common triggering allergies and are required to be labelled on food packaging in Australia.
These 10 main foods are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, finned fish, shellfish, wheat, soy and lupin. However, keep in mind any food substance can trigger anaphylaxis based on individual circumstances.
90 percent of allergic reactions occur from these foods and the Food Standards Code requires suppliers to declare these foods on labels whenever they are present as:
- components of food additives
- components of processing aids
These reactions can happen with either whole amounts consumed or even through consuming a trace of the substance, smelling the substance or touching the substance. As with all allergies, speaking to qualified health care provider will provide diagnosis and advice on management based on individuals circumstances.
Medication- Medications both over-the-counter, prescription and alternative medicines, can cause an anaphylactic reaction.
Bites and Stings- Anaphylaxis to bites and stings are most common from bees, wasps and ant bites.
It's worth repeating that- Anaphylaxis is preventable and treatable.
Seeking means to reduce your risks, for example- carrying an Allergy Card when going out, working with your health care providers on your diagnosis and treatments, carrying an allergy action plan with you at all times, and being with your Pal-lergy, are just some ways you can get onto the path of living a safer and happier life, even with the risk of Anaphylaxis.
And whatever your reason for reading this insight, whether it is for you or a loved one, it's important to consult your local health care provider for more information on allergic reactions, triggers, diagnosis, examination, treatment and management strategies. Plus they will be able to set up an individual Allergy Action Plan.
The information provided on Allergy Life Australia is to generally educate and inform you about living with allergies, intolerances and conditions, and is not intended as medical instruction or as a substitute for diagnosis, examination and advice by a qualified health care provider.