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Anaphylaxis: Do you know how to treat it?

Covered in our full 3-day First Aid at Work course, it is important that everyone can spot the signs of an anaphylactic reaction so that a casualty can receive treatment as quickly as possible.

Anaphylaxis is an extreme and potentially life-threatening over-reaction to a trigger, which results in rapid chemical changes in the body.

This trigger is often something you are allergic to, but not always. Common anaphylaxis triggers are foods (such as milk, nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, and some fruits), medicine, insect stings, latex, or even general anaesthetic. However, in some cases there's no obvious trigger, and this is called idiopathic anaphylaxis.

How to recognise an anaphylactic reaction:

  • difficulty breathing or wheezing

  • feeling light-headed or faint

  • anxiety

  • feeling or being sick

  • collapsing or losing consciousness

  • allergy symptoms including an itchy, raised rash (hives), or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, hands or feet (angiodema)


Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and it can become very serious if not treated immediately. Therefore, there is no legal problem with any person administering adrenaline using an auto-injector if it could save someone's life. However, it is still important that the casualty is seen by a qualified medical practitioner, even if they look better.

Our 3-day First Aid course will give you the confidence to use an Epi-pen should you ever need it.

If someone has symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should:

  1. Use an adrenaline auto-injector if the person has one

  2. Call 999 for an ambulance immediately- even if they start to feel better

  3. Remove any trigger if obvious e.g. an insect stinger

  4. Try to lie the person down flat (unless they are unconscious (recovery position), having breathing difficulties or pregnant)

  5. If the symptoms do not improve, administer a second auto-injection after 5 to 15 minutes, if available

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