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Severe Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis)

A severe allergic reaction occurs because a person is sensitive to an insect bite or sting, or through contact with drugs, medications, foods and chemicals.

The life threatening reaction can occur within seconds or minutes after contact with the substance.

Death from severe allergic reaction most often occurs when the casualty’s breathing is severely impaired.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Swelling and redness of the skin where the substance has had contact (hives)
  • Swelling of the throat, lips, tongue or around the eyes 
  • Nausea, vomiting, dizziness 
  • Itching 
  • Breathing difficulty, wheeze or dry persistant cough. This may progress to an obstructed airway as the tongue and throat swell.

First aid management

  • DRSABCD
  • If the substance is on the skin, wash it off with water; if the substance has been inhaled, remove the casualty from the area if it is safe to do so. 
  • Assess the casualty’s airway and breathing. If the casualty has any breathing difficulty or their throat is closing call for medical assistance urgently. 
  • Once symptoms of anaphylaxis have been identified, if necessary help in the administration of medication (Epipen) according to instructions on the Adrenaline Auto Injector. 
  • If their medication is unavailable with any anaphylactic reaction,  call for medical assistance (000) 
  • Monitor the ABC and reassure the casualty