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Allergies and hypersensitivities

2-minute read

People have immune systems that recognise what is usually part of the body (blood, cells, hair etc.) and what is not (bacteria, viruses, splinters etc.). Sometimes the immune system becomes hypersensitive to chemicals from foods (peanuts, shellfish, nuts, eggs, wheat); animals (dogs, cats); and other materials (grasses, dust, dustmites, medicines).

This causes allergic reactions. For most people, the allergic reaction is hay fever (runny nose and itchy eyes) or hives (a bumpy skin rash). In some people this reaction is severe and causes anaphylaxis, which is an emergency needing immediate injection with adrenaline from an epi-pen.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends that for a severe allergic reaction adrenaline is the initial treatment. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Critical shortage of EpiPen Jr Adrenaline (epinephrine)

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued an alert that stock of EpiPen Jr has run out in Australia. For more information on this supply shortage and the latest updates, see TGA's alert on EpiPen Jr.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) has practical health information and advice. If you have no access to adrenaline, call triple zero (000) early if you think someone is having a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Allergies can be treated with antihistamine medicines, and allergy tests might find the cause of the hypersensitivity. If so, it may be possible to have regular injections to stop the body overreacting.

ASCIA also recommends that you should speak to your doctor or specialist about the benefits and safety of allergen immunotherapy or before attempting any allergy testing or treatment. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Follow the links below to find trusted information about allergies and hypersensitivities.

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Last reviewed: August 2014


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