A severe and potentially life-threatening reaction

Anaphylaxis is the most severe kind of allergic reaction, usually involving several body systems. It can be life-threatening and may arise from allergy to foods as well as to insect stings, medication, latex and exercise. It's also known as anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

Any or all of the following symptoms may be present during an anaphylaxis reaction:

  • Swelling of tongue and/or throat.

  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking.

  • Vocal changes (hoarse voice).

  • Wheeze or persistent cough or severe asthma.

  • Difficult or noisy breathing.

  • Stomach cramps or vomiting after an insect sting.

  • Dizziness/collapse/loss of consciousness (due to a drop in blood pressure).

If they have been diagnosed with anaphylaxis make sure their school is aware of their allergy.

Managing your allergy

Being young and trying to manage your severe allergy can be hard work. Below are some tips to help them stay safe.

  • Make sure those around them know they have an allergy.

  • If they have been prescribed an auto-injector make sure they carry it at all times - there should be no exceptions; they may also be advised to get an emergency card or bracelet with full details of their allergy and doctor's contact details to alert others.

  • Have a health care plan in school to ensure the school staff know how to manage emergency care.

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

  • Checking food labels and ingredients.

  • Letting staff at a restaurant know what they're allergic to so it's not included in their meal.

  • Remembering some types of food may contain small traces of potential allergens - for example, some sauces contain wheat and peanuts.

  • Be sure not to swap food with others.

  • Avoid eating anything containing unknown ingredients.

  • Make sure they remain vigilant on special occasions including holidays or times of celebration, such as weddings, parties or religious festivals.

Act immediately

  • They must let an adult know immediately if they eat something they think might contain food to which they are allergic.

  • Let an adult know immediately if they believe they are having an allergic reaction, even if the cause is unknown.

They can reduce their 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 their arms around or swat at them.

  • Using an insect repellent if they 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 them in the mouth when they take a drink.

  • Not walking around outside with bare feet.