Some allergies can lead to a severe allergic reaction – known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. 

Symptoms can occur quickly or within hours following contact with an allergen. Prompt treatment can save a life. If you have an adrenaline auto-injector – use it immediately. 

Common causes 

Common causes of anaphylaxis are wasp and bee stings as well as food, such as peanuts, nuts, sesame seed, fish and shellfish, dairy products and egg. Other causes include latex, penicillin and some other medications. 

For some, fatigue or exercise may cause anaphylaxis – alone or in combination with other triggers like food or medication. Cold can also be a cause. In rare cases a reaction can occur without apparent cause. 


● Itching, especially under the feet, in the hands or on the head 

● A stinging feeling in the mouth 

● Swelling in the mouth, throat, lips or eyes 

● Itching, redness or nettle-rash anywhere on the body 

● Dizziness, anxiety, cold sweating 

● Abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting 

● Shortness of breath or asthma symptoms 

● Sudden fatigue, decreased blood pressure or fainting 

● Disorientation or loss of consciousness 

Critical symptoms: difficulty to breath, mouth and throat swell, sudden fatigue or dizziness, experiencing a steady worsening of symptoms. 

If your client experiences these critical symptoms, inject adrenaline immediately. Call 999 and say “anaphylaxis”. 


Adrenaline is first line treatment for anaphylaxis. If you have an adrenaline auto-injector – use it immediately. Adrenaline injected into the outer mid-thigh muscle, works rapidly to reduce throat swelling, open up the airways and maintain heart function and blood pressure. It is the only medication available for the immediate treatment of severe allergic reactions. 

Antihistamine and steroid tablets. Antihistamine reduces hives, itching and irritation. Cortisone reduces the risk of late onset reactions that can occur some hours following contact with allergens. 

Who is at risk of anaphylaxis? 

A person who has previously experienced anaphylaxis – irrespective of cause – is at risk in the future. 

If the reaction was caused by peanuts, shellfish or fish, it should not be ignored, even if mild. This is especially important if the reaction was caused by peanuts. This is also the case for certain drugs, insect stings or latex. Your doctor will give you essential information and prescribe suitable medication. 

When your client suffers from anaphylaxis 

Do not underestimate the severity of an allergic reaction. Use your adrenaline auto-injector according to its instructions. If in doubt, use your adrenaline auto-injector – it can save their life. Then lay them down with their legs slightly elevated. 

Call 999 and say “anaphylaxis.” State your name, location and telephone number. 

If possible, someone should wait outside to show the ambulance crew where you are. 

Let ambulance personnel know about the client’s medical history and treatment undertaken.