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Anaphylaxis is a severe and often sudden allergic reaction often associated with certain foods (but can be caused by other substances). It can happen if someone is exposed to something they are severely allergic to. This type of reaction can come on extremely quickly (within minutes). Anaphylaxis is life threatening and it's important to act quickly, if someone you are with is having an allergic reaction. 

What Causes An Anaphylactic Reaction?

An anaphylactic reaction is caused by the sudden release of chemical substances, including histamine, from cells in the blood and tissues where they are stored. The release is triggered by the reaction between the allergic antibody and the substance the person is allergic to. Extremely small amounts of an allergic substance can cause a reaction. The released chemicals act on blood vessels to cause the swelling in the mouth and anywhere on the skin. There is a fall in blood pressure and, in asthmatics; the effect is mainly on the lungs.

Dive Deeper

What Does Anaphylaxis Look Like?

Anaphylaxis can cause a range of different symptoms in different people. Listed below are common symptoms to look out for if someone is experiencing Anaphylaxis; 

    • Nettle rash anywhere on the body.
    • Swelling of throat and mouth.
    • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking.
    • Alterations in heart rate.
    • Severe asthma.
    • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
    • Sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure).
    • A sense of impending doom or helplessness.
    • Collapse and unconsciousness.

Causes of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis can be caused by a variety of different triggers, so it is important that a young person with allergies avoids their particular trigger. These could include;  

  • Food allergies Make sure all food ingredient labels are carefully reviewed to check for allergens. It is important that young people's caregivers let professionals know if their child has history of anaphylaxis. A plan should then be put in place to make sure the young person doesn't come into contact with any triggers. 
  • Medications Certain medications, including antibiotics, aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Insect stings To help them prevent being stung, avoid walking barefoot in grass, drinking from open soft drink cans, wearing bright coloured clothing with flowery patterns, sweet smelling perfumes, hairsprays and lotion during active insect season. 

Find out more about the types of foods and substances that can cause Anaphylaxis

Treatment of Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency. If available, an injection of a medicine called adrenaline should be given as soon as possible. 

Some people with a previous history of anaphylaxis will have an auto-injector of adrenaline.

Adrenaline acts quickly to open up the airways, reduce their swelling and raise the blood pressure. To work effectively, it must be given as soon as possible if there are any signs of a severe allergic reaction. With early treatment those more severe symptoms are easier to reverse.

Read more about the treatment of Anaphylaxis

Training For Professionals

We recommend that for Anaphylaxis, appropriate training is accessed from the specialist organisations. Taking advantage of these training packages means that professionals can access the training when they require it, knowing it is being provided by experts so the information will be current and credible.

Training links are;


Spare Pens In School Training

Anaphylaxis.org Training


Training Packs And Resources

Every setting is likely to have at least one pupil who is severely allergic to a type of food, and many schools will have more. For many children, the symptoms of allergy are mild, however, occasionally the symptoms are severe and they may even be life-threatening.

It is important that professionals and young people in settings are made aware of how to react if a child has an allergic reaction.

Did you know?

10% of children and adults under the age of 45 have 2 or more allergies. Hospital admission for food allergies has increased by 500% in the last 30 years. 

How Can Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People's Health Services Help?

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