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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Anaphylaxis (severe allergy)

Mate pāwera kino


Anaphylaxis can cause death and is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone near you is suffering from anaphylaxis and they have an adrenaline pen or injection, give them adrenaline then immediately phone 111. Watch this short video on how to use an adrenaline autoinjector (all brands are similar and work the same way).

Anaphylaxis is a severe life-threatening allergic reaction. Causes include insect bites, bee stings, food (for example, nuts), and medications. Anaphylaxis tends to happen in just a matter of minutes. Signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • tongue swelling
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • difficulty breathing – may be noisy or wheezy (whistling sound)
  • difficulty talking
  • collapse
  • loss of consciousness
  • floppy and pale (young children).

First aid

How to use an adrenaline injection pen (for example an EpiPen)

An EpiPen is an automatic adrenaline injector for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis. Medical training is not needed to use one.

Watch this short video on how to use an adrenaline autoinjector (this is an Australian video. In New Zealand phone 111 for an emergency).

You can get an adrenaline injection pen prescribed by your doctor, nurse prescriber or pharmacist prescriber or you can buy one directly from a pharmacy without a prescription.

People at risk of anaphylaxis who meet certain eligibility criteria can get free pens. Talk to your healthcare provider to check if you're eligible.

What to do if you're at risk of anaphylaxis

If you're at risk of anaphylaxis, talk to your general practice team. You can ask them to help you complete an action plan that you can then keep with your adrenaline. The practice nurses at your general practice can give you and your whānau (family) training in how to use an adrenaline injection pen.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


See also:


Oral allergy syndrome

Page reference: 48946

Review key: HIALL-38559