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Five things you need to know about anaphylaxis

Have you ever seen anyone go into anaphylactic shock? Would you know what to do and how to react?


For me, the ignorance of others is my worst nightmare and my central fear around being a severely allergic person. I worry that I could have a reaction and be alone, be with a stranger  who cannot react quickly enough or goes into a panic themselves. I worry because with anaphylactic shock the so-called ‘golden time’ in an emergency situation could be minutes.


Anaphylaxis can occur where the chemicals which cause an allergic reaction are released into the blood stream – and not into localised tissue. Symptoms can occur immediately, in minutes or up to an hour later.


One of my worst times was when I collapsed with my father. He administered my adrenalin and rushed me to hospital. I was soon in intensive care and no one knew what had caused it. I began to recover, he gave me a big hug and I collapsed again. It was his after shave. I had a complete reaction instantly to that particular brand – he’s never worn it since


Most common causes – there are three.


*Foods such as peanuts and shellfish (though any food can cause an allergic reaction)

*Insect stings

*Drugs – often those given by injection.


Symptoms – recognising symptoms is important. These can include swelling of the tongue and throat (that’s me); difficulty swallowing and speaking (also me); a hoarse voice; persistent cough or asthma attack; difficulty in breathing and noisy breathing; stomach cramps and vomiting especially after an insect sting; dizziness, collapse and loss of consciousness.


Adrenalin auto injector – the first line of defence for anyone with anaphylaxis is this. Search their person, their handback, rucksack or suitcase for one, or ask anyone with them if they have it. Adrenalin starts to work immediately to reduce swelling, lower blood pressure and ease breathing.


Ambulance – don’t wait for the injector to work, call an ambulance as well. If there’s more than one person around, one should look for the injector, the other call an ambulance and describe clearly what’s happening and use the word anaphylaxis. A sufferer may need more adrenalin and will need to be cared for in hospital. Sometimes an sufferer and their family may have no idea what triggered the attack.


Educate yourself – if you, a loved one or your child, is diagnosed with allergies – even if they have not had an anaphylactic shock – educate yourself about it. You don’t want to experience one and not recognise it for what it is. Ask your GP for any first aid training in your area or contact Allergy UK for advice, factsheets so that you can react quickly if the worst happens.

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