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Understanding Anaphylaxis and Its First Aid Management

Anaphylaxis First Aid

Table of Contents

Sharon McCulloch

Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, is a potentially deadly and severe allergic reaction. Nearly one in five Australians suffer from some kind of allergy, of which the most common are food (notably, dairy, nuts, wheat, and fish), pollen and animal dander (flakes of skin or fur). By understanding anaphylaxis, this life-threatening allergic reaction can be identified and swiftly responded to. Appropriate first aid response and administering an adrenaline auto-injector training device is taught in all First Aid Pro advanced first aid courses and first aid training courses.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Defining the Severe Allergic Reaction

Anaphylaxis, like any allergic reaction, occurs when one’s immune system incorrectly identifies a harmless substance as dangerous. However, unlike moderate allergic reactions, anaphylaxis involves more than just one of the body’s systems. Anaphylaxes can quickly develop into a life-threatening medical emergency if not treated immediately.

The Importance of Recognising Anaphylaxis Early

Recognising the signs of anaphylaxis early is vital for getting the victim emergency treatment as soon as needed. Untreated anaphylaxis can lead to further complications and even death. If you suspect someone is having an allergic reaction don’t hesitate to call triple zero (000) and seek advice from the emergency services.

Recognising the Signs: Anaphylaxis Chart and Symptoms

Anaphylaxis Signs and Symptoms Chart

The key to identifying anaphylaxis is recognising its symptoms. As anaphylaxis can affect multiple body systems at once, they can be categorised according to which region they affect. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • The Brain

    • Confusion, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting

  • Respiratory System

    • Sudden breathing difficulty or shortness of breath, rapid breathing and a persistent cough or wheeze

  • Skin Symptoms

    • Hives, swelling, blue colouration, flushing, itching and rashes

  • Gastrointestinal System

    • Nausea, vomiting, tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, a weak or hoarse voice and abdominal pain

Anaphylaxis action chart

Common Triggers in Australia

Many symptoms of anaphylaxis are also common to other conditions. As such, recognising anaphylaxis is easier when one can identify both its symptoms and the presence of potential triggers. In Australia, the most common triggers are food allergy, pollen and animal dander. Insect stings can also be a common trigger.

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First Aid Management for Anaphylactic Reactions

Crafting a First Aid Plan for Anaphylaxis

If you have a known allergy that can cause a severe reaction, talk to your doctor to create a plan. This can help your loved ones identify when you have an anaphylactic episode and help you accordingly.

As part of your plan, ensure people know the location of your EpiPen and any energy contacts you need them to call. If possible, also pass on information regarding how much adrenaline they’ll need to give you and how often they should do so.

Anaphylactic First Aid

If you recognise the severe allergic reaction of anaphylaxis, the first step is to call triple zero (000), to ensure the most immediate treatment possible.

Lay the person down flat and keep them still, do not let them attempt to stand or walk under any circumstances. If they are unconscious, immediately put them in the recovery position. Alternatively, if they are having trouble breathing or are vomiting, allow them to sit up with their legs outstretched. Inject the person with their EpiPen or adrenaline autoinjector if available.

EpiPen and its Role in Anaphylaxis First Aid

A severe allergic reaction can begin with a hoarse voice and end with difficulty breathing requiring hospitalisation

Understanding the EpiPen Mechanism

The EpiPen is a tool used to treat severe allergic reactions. It is an adrenaline auto-injector containing medication that relaxes muscles and airways making it easier to breathe, and decreases blood pressure, helping reduce the severity of one’s allergic reaction.

EpiPen: Proper Usage and Storage

To inject an EpiPen, place the orange tip against the middle of the victim’s upper leg perpendicular to their thigh. Firmly push the EpiPen until it clicks, and hold it in place for three seconds.

EpiPens and other adrenaline injectors should be stored in a cool, dark space at room temperature. Do not refrigerate as they can be damaged by cold. EpiPens should not be used beyond their use-by date.

First Aid Training For Anaphylaxis

It can be overwhelming if someone has an anaphylactic reaction. By completing a first aid course, you can learn not only how to use an EpiPen and prevent anaphylaxis, you can also keep yourself calm and ensure the person receives the help they need.

In addition to helping someone experiencing a serious reaction, you can learn skills to help in almost any medical emergency. By gaining these skills before you need them, you can potentially save someone’s life.

The content on this website offers general insights regarding health conditions and potential treatments. It is not intended as, and should not be construed as, medical advice. If you are facing a medical emergency, dial 000 immediately and follow the guidance provided.

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