Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, rapidly progressive allergic reaction that is potentially life threatening. What are the main causes?

The most common allergens in school aged children are:
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts (eg. hazelnuts, cashews, almonds)
  • eggs
  • cow's milk
  • wheat
  • soy
  • fish and shellfish

These eight foods cause 90% of food allergic reactions in Australia. Other common allergens include some insect stings (particularly bee stings) some medications, latex and 
anaesthesia.

Signs and Symptoms

  • The symptoms of a mild to moderate allergic reaction can include:
  • swelling of the lips, face and eyes
  • hives or welts
  • abdominal pain and/or vomiting.
  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction - can include:
  • difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling/tightness in the throat
  • difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
  • wheezing or persistent coughing
  • loss of consciousness and/or collapse
  • young children may appear pale or floppy.

Symptoms usually develop within 10 minutes to one hour of exposure to an allergen but can appear within a few minutes.

How can anaphylaxis be treated

Adrenaline given as an injection into the muscle of the outer thigh is the most effective first aid treatment for anaphylaxis. Children diagnosed as being at risk of anaphylaxis are prescribed an auto-injector commonly known as an Epipen, for administration in an emergency. Children under 20kgs are prescribed an Epipen Junior, which has a smaller dosage of adrenaline.

Prevention strategies

The school has implemented a ‘No food sharing policy' to eliminate children at risk of anaphylaxis having foods to which they may be allergic.

Use non-food treats where possible, but if food treats are used in class, it is recommended that parents/carers provide a treat box with alternative treats. Treat boxes should be clearly labelled and handled only by the student. Never give food from outside sources to a student who is at risk of anaphylaxis.