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What is anaphylaxis?

What is anaphylaxis?

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It may occur when you are exposed to an allergen. Common allergens include food, medicines, and insect bites and stings.


Wheat, shellfish, fish, sesame, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and milk are the most common food allergens. They cause 90% of allergic reactions. 


Medications, both over the counter and prescribed, can cause life threatening allergic reactions. Individuals can also have anaphylactic reactions to herbal or ‘alternative’ medicines.

Insect bite or sting

Anaphylaxis to insect stings are mostly caused by jack jumper ant, wasp, and bee stings. Fire ants, green ants, and ticks may also trigger anaphylaxis in some people.

Other triggers

Anaphylaxis can sometimes be, though rarely, triggered by latex or exercise.  

How to identify anaphylaxis

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include: 

  • a weak, rapid pulse; 
  • a skin rash; 
  • abdominal pain; 
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea; 
  • difficulty breathing or noisy breathing;
  • swelling of the face, lips, eyes, tongue and/or throat;
  • difficulty talking or hoarse voice;
  • wheeze or persistent cough;
  • persistent dizziness or fainting;
  • pale and floppy (in young children); and
  • a sudden drop in blood pressure.

As it is a potentially life-threatening condition, it is important that you know how to provide initial life support to a person suffering from anaphylaxis before professional help arrives.

What to do if you are at risk of anaphylaxis

If you are at risk of anaphylaxis or have experienced a severe allergic reaction or signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis in the past, you need to see a clinical immunology/allergy specialist. 

They will: 

  • perform a comprehensive medical history and clinical examination and interpret your allergy test results to identify the trigger/s of your anaphylaxis;
  • advise you on how to avoid those trigger/s;
  • provide an ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis that provides guidance on when and how to use an adrenaline injector (EpiPen® or Anapen® ); and
  • schedule regular follow-up visits for you.

Adrenaline injectors

Caregivers must be able to identify the symptoms of anaphylaxis and be prepared to administer adrenaline to treat anaphylaxis in emergency situations.

Adrenaline injectors can be purchased through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on prescription or at a pharmacy. An adrenaline injector contains a single, fixed dose of adrenaline and can be administered by people who are not medically trained.

Register for anaphylaxis training

The MSA Training and Professional Development offers training courses on how to respond to severe allergic reactions, airway obstruction, respiratory distress, and bites and stings. These include HLTAID009 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation, HLTAID010 Provide basic emergency life support, HLTAID011 Provide First Aid, and HLTAID012 Provide First Aid in an education and care setting. You should only enrol in HLTAID012 if you are an educator or support staff working within an early education or childcare setting.

Meet your trainers

The training courses are taught by Paul Hill and Peter Hamilton. Paul has numerous qualifications in Medical Emergencies and Mental Health and extensive experience in developing and facilitating state-wide, nationally recognised training and creating emergency management plans for his clients. Peter has over 20 years of training experience in numerous Medical Emergency courses. Before becoming a trainer, he worked as an Ambulance Officer in which he was able to gain valuable knowledge which led him on his path to become an IPS Ambulance Training Manager.

Private group training

Training is available for private groups at your location. For more information, please visit the above websites or contact us at 9905 3180 or msa-monashtraining@monash.edu.


Written by: Li Sze