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Allergy | August 1, 2018 | Author: Naturopath



Every year thousands of Australians are hospitalised due to anaphylaxis. Having such severe allergic reactions is a real concern - making even simple things such as going to a restaurant a potentially dangerous experience. Approximately one in every 200 people have this life-threatening reaction – mainly to seemingly harmless foods, insects and medicines.

So, what exactly is anaphylaxis and how can it be managed?

Anaphylaxis explained

Anaphylaxis explainedAnaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is a medical emergency which usually requires administration of an auto-adrenaline injector (EpiPen). It is the most severe form of allergy which can develop within minutes of encountering a trigger substance called an allergen. Anaphylaxis causes the immune system to release massive amounts of chemicals that spark a multisystem reaction affecting the heart, skin, gut and cardiovascular system.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

The average amount of time it takes to develop anaphylaxis is usually around 20 minutes, but it can take up to 2 hours.

If you notice any of the following symptoms administer an EpiPen immediately and call 000.

  • Facial swelling, especially the lips and eyelids
  • Swollen tongue and throat
  • Reddening of skin or red welts (hives) across the body
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Inability to talk or hoarseness
  • Wheezing or persistent cough
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness and/or collapse
  • Unconsciousness
  • Young children may get floppy and pale

Common anaphylactic triggers

The most common allergens involved in an anaphylactic reaction include:


Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy are the most common food triggers, which account for 90 percent of allergic reactions.

Common anaphylactic triggersHowever, any food can potentially trigger anaphylactic shock and in very sensitive people even the smallest amount of contact can be fatal.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the two main foods which are proven to be the most fatal include shellfish and peanuts.
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Bites and Stings

Bee, wasp and jack jumper ant stings are the most common triggers of anaphylaxis to insect bites. Ticks, green ants and fire ants can also trigger anaphylaxis in susceptible individuals.


Medications such as aspirin and penicillin and even herbal medicines can cause life threatening allergic reactions.


Other triggers such as latex, anaesthesia or exercise induced anaphylaxis are less common. Occasionally, despite extensive investigation, the persons trigger cannot be identified.

Risk factors

Common anaphylactic triggersThere aren’t many known factors that increase your risk of anaphylaxis, but some things that might increase your risk include:

History of allergies: this includes conditions such as eczema and asthma.

Previous anaphylaxis: if you’ve had an anaphylactic reaction, your risk of future reoccurrences increases. Unfortunately, the severity of symptoms can increase with each future reaction.

Certain medical conditions: mastocytosis (excessive number of mast cells) and heart disease.


Every person that has had an anaphylactic reaction should have a management plan which details how to avoid potential allergens and what to do in case of emergency.

EpiPen: Anyone in your school, daycare or work environment should be made aware of your anaphylaxis management plan. They must also know where your EpiPen is kept and how to use it in case of emergency.

Medical alert bracelet: if you loose consciousness, wearing a medical alert bracelet can help medical staff to quickly identify your condition so that you can receive prompt treatment.

Common anaphylactic triggersAvoiding triggers: The best-known way to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid any substance which triggers a reaction.

This means being careful when reading food labels, eating out and preparing food in the kitchen. You may need to speak to a nutritionist or dietitian to be aware of other ways these allergens can be hidden in foods.

First aid course: It is essential that immediate family members of a person with anaphylaxis be familiar with basic first aid skills, especially what to do if someone is in anaphylactic shock.


There has been a great deal of research conducted in the area of probiotics and allergies. The results of one meta-analysis found a significant decrease in obtaining a positive skin prick test or elevated specific IgE to common allergens. Previous studies showed that administration of the probiotic LGG to highly selected food-allergic patients under the age of 2 with mild to moderate eczema improved their eczema score significantly.  

In addition, oral therapy with the probiotic mixture VSL#3 and Lactobaccillus casei strain shirota were able to reduce anaphylactic symptoms in a food allergy model.

Natural therapies don’t claim to treat or cure anaphylaxis. The above suggestions are ways to help support a healthy immune system and promote digestive balance in individuals who suffer allergies.

The bottom line

  • Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that requires prompt medical attention
  • Symptoms include swelling of the face, tightening of the throat and difficulty breathing
  • It is important to deliver a dose of adrenaline immediately and call 000
  • Preventing an anaphylactic episode involves following your management plan written up by your doctor  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Alvarez-Perea A, et al. How to manage anaphylaxis in primary care. Clin Transl Allergy. 2017 Dec 11;7:45

Forsythe P, et al. Systemic effects of ingested Lactobacillus rhamnosus: inhibition of mast cell membrane potassium (IKCa) current and degranulation. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41234

Özdemir O. Various effects of different probiotic strains in allergic disorders: an update from laboratory and clinical data. Clin Exp Immunol. 2010 Jun; 160(3): 295–304

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