When is an Allergic Reaction an Emergency?

In Australia, allergies are very common. Around 1 in 3 people will develop allergies at some point in their life.

The most common allergic conditions are food allergies, eczema, asthma and hayfever. Allergens can be in medication, the environment or proteins in the food we eat.

Anaphylaxis

For someone with a severe allergy, exposure to an allergen can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis effects the whole body, often within minutes of exposure. Early symptoms can be mild but can quickly lead to more serious problems including the following.

  • Trouble breathing

  • Collapse, dizziness, rapid heart rate, pallor (indicators of low blood pressure)

  • Tightness of the throat

  • Swelling of the throat

  • Hoarse voice

  • Red rash and itch

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Diarrhoea

  • Feeling of doom

  • Cardiac arrest

Common Anaphylactic triggers

Food – Any food is capable of functioning as an anaphylactic trigger. However, 90% of allergic reactions have been found to include crustaceans, eggs, milk, fish, tree nuts, sesame or soy products

Medicine – Some prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies have been found to induce anaphylactic reactions

Insect venom – From insect’s such bees, ants, wasps and ticks.

However, it is important to remember that these are just some of the common triggers and despite intensive investigation, a person’s trigger/s cannot always be identified.

The Village

Develop an anaphylaxis action plan

The best way to avoid recurrent anaphylaxis is to develop an anaphylaxis action plan

Know and avoid your triggers – A critical management strategy is to remain aware of all anaphylactic triggers and to subsequently avoid all known triggers

Consult an accredited dietitian – As all foods have the capability to function as an anaphylactic trigger, consulting an accredited dietitian can assist with identifying allergens hidden inside processed and packaged foods

Always carry an AAI – An adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) is a dose of injectable adrenaline. An intramuscular injection of adrenaline is used to treat an anaphylactic reaction. It is critical to make friends and workmates aware of where you store your AAI and instruct them on how to use it in case you need help

If you carry an Epipen, administer this immediately upon occurrence of anaphylaxis, but triple 000 must still be called.

After dialling emergency services, you will be taken to an emergency department for further treatment and observation.

Epworth HealthCare provides emergency department services in Geelong (8am – 10pm, seven days) and Richmond (24/7).