Key messages

  • Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction often caused by medication, food or insect venom.
  • Death from anaphylaxis is rare.
  • Anaphylaxis treatment uses adrenaline.
  • Long-term management is required to manage risk and prevention.

Overview

Anaphylaxis is a severe and sudden allergic reaction that can cause death. It is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment, as well as ongoing management to minimise risk. Allergic reactions to food, medications and venom are increasing.

This document aims to provide health professionals with a summary of current knowledge regarding anaphylaxis, to assist with identification, prevention and management.

Summary

  • Presentations and hospital admissions for anaphylaxis are increasing.
  • Death from anaphylaxis is rare.
  • Overall, the most common causes of anaphylaxis are medication, food and insect venom. Medications are a common cause of anaphylaxis in older adults, particularly antibiotics, NSAIDs, anaesthetic drugs and opiates. Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children but rarely results in death.
  • Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical treatment with adrenaline.
  • Long-term management is important to minimise ongoing risk. This includes referral to an allergy specialist, identification of the trigger, allergen avoidance, development of an anaphylaxis action plan and regular follow-up.
  • General practitioners have a key role to play in identification and prevention.