Anaphylaxis

Find out what you can do to reduce your risk of experiencing anaphylaxis, including avoiding triggers and carrying an adrenaline auto-injector at all times.

If you have a serious allergy or have experienced anaphylaxis, it's important to try to prevent future episodes.

The main things you can do to reduce your risk are outlined below.

Identify triggers

Finding out if you're allergic to anything that could trigger anaphylaxis can help you avoid these triggers in the future.

If you've had anaphylaxis and haven't already been diagnosed with an allergy, you should be referred to an allergy clinic for tests to identify any triggers.

The most commonly used tests are:

  • a skin prick test – your skin is pricked with a tiny amount of a suspected allergen to see if it reacts
  • a blood test – a sample of your blood is taken to test its reaction to a suspected allergen

Read more about diagnosing allergies and allergy testing.

Avoid triggers

If a trigger has been identified, you'll need to take steps to avoid it in the future whenever possible. See below for advice about avoiding some specific triggers.

Food

You can reduce the chances of being exposed to a food allergen by:

  • checking food labels and ingredients
  • letting staff at a restaurant know what you're allergic to so it's not included in your meal
  • remembering some types of food may contain small traces of potential allergens – for example, some sauces contain wheat and peanuts

Read about living with a food allergy for more information.

Insect stings

You can reduce your risk of being stung by an insect by taking basic precautions, such as:

  • moving away from wasps, hornets or bees slowly without panicking – don't wave your arms around or swat at them
  • using an insect repellent if you spend time outdoors, particularly in the summer
  • being careful drinking out of cans when there are insects around – insects may fly or crawl inside the can and sting you in the mouth when you take a drink
  • not walking around outside with bare feet

Some specialist allergy centres can also offer special treatment to help desensitise you to insect stings (immunotherapy).

Read more about preventing insect stings.

Medicines

If you're allergic to certain types of medicines, there are normally alternatives that can be safely used.

For example, if you're allergic to:

Always tell any healthcare professional about medicine allergies you have, as they may not be aware of them.

Carry adrenaline auto-injectors

You may be prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector if there's an ongoing risk you could develop anaphylaxis. 

There are three types of auto-injector – EpiPenJext and Emerade – that are each slightly different. Click on the links for advice about how to use these injectors.

It's important to remember the following:

  • carry an auto-injector at all times – there should be no exceptions; you may also be advised to get an emergency card or bracelet with full details of your allergy and doctor's contact details to alert others
  • extremes of heat can make adrenaline less effective – so don't leave your auto-injector in the fridge or your car's glove compartment, for example
  • check the expiry date regularly – an out-of-date injector will offer limited protection
  • manufacturers offer a reminder service, where you can be contacted near the expiry date – check the information leaflet that comes with your medicine for more information
  • don't delay injecting yourself if you think you may be experiencing anaphylaxis, even if your initial symptoms are mild – it's better to use adrenaline early and then find out it was a false alarm than delay treatment until you're sure you're experiencing severe anaphylaxis

If your child has an auto-injector, they will need to change over to an adult dose once they reach 30kg (approximately 4.5 stone).

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