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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Anaphylaxis (severe allergy)


Anaphylaxis can cause death and is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone near you is suffering anaphylaxis, phone 111 for an ambulance immediately.

If they have an adrenaline pen or injection give adrenaline. 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 do I help someone suffering anaphylaxis?

How do I use an adrenaline injection pen (for example an Epipen or Anapen)?

Woman injecting epipen.jpg An Epipen or Anapen is an automatic adrenaline injector for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis. Medical training is not needed to use one.

What can I do if I'm at risk of anaphylaxis?

If you're at risk of anaphylaxis, talk to your doctor. 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 or family training in how to use an adrenaline injection pen.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2016.


See also:


Oral allergy syndrome

Page reference: 537294

Review key: HIAPH-19327