Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergic reaction. It can happen after exposure to certain triggers, such as food, bites and stings. Anaphylaxis can be fatal so should always be treated as a medical emergency.
If you think someone is having an allergic reaction, call triple zero (000).
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include any one of the following:
- difficult or noisy breathing
- difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
- a swollen tongue
- persistent dizziness or collapse
- swelling or tightness in the throat
- pale and floppy (young children)
- wheeze or persistent cough
Sometimes, other less dangerous symptoms come before anaphylaxis:
First aid for anaphylaxis
- Lay person flat and keep them still — do not let them stand or walk.
- If unconscious, place them in the recovery position.
- If breathing is difficult allow them to sit.
- Give adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen).
- Phone ambulance on triple zero (000).
- Further adrenaline doses may be given if no response after 5 minutes.
- Transfer person to hospital for at least 4 hours of observation.
If the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally, start CPR.
If you are not sure — always use the EpiPen. It is better to use it than to not treat a serious reaction.
If the person also has asthma, give the adrenaline autoinjector first and then asthma reliever puffer.
For more information on anaphylaxis, including setting up a personal action plan, go to www.allergy.org.au.
People with diagnosed allergies should avoid all triggers and confirmed allergens and have a readily accessible anaphylaxis action plan and medical alert device. It is wise to ensure your friends and family know how to follow your anaphylaxis action plan too in case you need help.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: July 2020