Home > Types of Allergy > Severe Allergy and Anaphylaxis > First Aid for Anaphylaxis

First Aid for Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening. It normally occurs after someone with a severe allergy is exposed to the substance they are allergic to (normally a food, insect sting or medicine). Always treat anaphylaxis as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment.

Anaphylaxis may be preceded by less severe symptoms of an allergic reaction:

Mild-moderate symptoms Severe symptoms (Anaphylaxis)
Swelling of face, lips and eyes Swelling of tongue and/or throat
Skin rash (hives, welts, urticaria) Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
Tingling mouth Vocal changes (hoarse voice)
Runny / itchy nose, sneezing Wheeze or persistent cough
Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting Difficult or noisy breathing
Dizziness / collapse / loss of consciousness

Step 1

  • Stay with the person and call for help
  • If any severe symptoms are present, proceed immediately to STEP 3
  • Give any medicines for mild reactions that the person has been prescribed e.g. anti-histamine
  • If the person has been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector device, find this and read the instructions
  • For a child, contact the parent/guardian

Step 2

  • Continue to watch for any one of the following signs of anaphylaxis:
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Swelling of tongue
Difficulty in swallowing or speaking
Vocal changes (hoarse voice)
Wheeze or persistent cough
Difficult or noisy breathing
Dizziness / collapse / loss of consciousness
  • If any one of these symptoms is present, proceed immediately to STEP 3

Step 3

  • Lay person flat (if breathing is difficult, allow them to sit but do not let them stand or walk)
  • Use the adrenaline auto-injector device, if available
  • Call an ambulance (999) – use a mobile phone if available
  • For a child, contact the parent/guardian
  • Further adrenaline doses may be given (if a second auto-injector device is available) where there is no response after 5 minutes

IF IN DOUBT, GIVE THE ADRENALINE AUTO-INJECTOR

Notes:

  1. In the event of anaphylaxis, do not delay giving adrenaline if available. Adrenaline is the first treatment of anaphylaxis, even before oxygen and other resuscitation steps.
  2. There is no legal problem in any person administering adrenaline for treatment of a possible anaphylactic reaction. The first aider must be competent in being able to recognise the symptoms of anaphylaxis and administering adrenaline using an auto-injector.
  3. Current recommendations from the UK Resuscitation Council are for patients to be observed in hospital for at least 6 hours after anaphylaxis.

Last updated: March 2012

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