Anaphylaxis is a serious and severe allergic reaction where symptoms can get rapidly worse.

In children and young adults, food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, whereas in older adults drug allergies more commonly result in anaphylaxis. Persistent food allergies (those that are not outgrown) are more likely to cause anaphylaxis such as nuts, sesame seed, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs. In some instances, exercise can trigger an allergic reaction. Drug and venom allergy can also cause anaphylaxis in children, but this is more common in adults.

Symptoms include one or more of the following:

  • skin reactions – hives, itchiness, redness, rash (note than in 20% of cases of anaphylaxis no skin involvement is found)
  • swelling of the tongue, throat and mouth
  • difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • abdominal pain/cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • anxiety and ‘sense of impending doom’
  • persistent cough. wheezing of difficulty breathing (can mimic asthma attack)
  • child becomes pale and floppy
  • sudden feeling of weakness – dizziness, low blood pressure
  • collapse and/or unconsciousness

If a child has experienced anaphylaxis, it is vital that they and their parents know what they are allergic to and know how to avoid it. They should be issued with a written emergency treatment plan, which includes antihistamines and adrenaline autoinjectors, and for patients with asthma, also Ventolin (blue asthma reliever inhaler) and oral prednisolone.  They family and child (once old enough) should be shown when and how to use the adrenaline autoinjector.