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Adults don't know how to treat an allergic reaction

Commissioned by Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) and conducted by Galaxy Research the findings are based on responses from a representative sample of 1000 Australian adults and showed: 

  • 69% would not know how to help someone having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

  • 70% did not know how to use a potentially life-saving adrenaline autoinjector (or EpiPen) and nearly 31% didn’t know what an adrenaline autoinjector was

  • 56% thought people with a food allergy were “over cautious” about what they ate and 27% said there was “a lot of fuss” about food allergy and we had become “over-protective”

  • Only 4% knew that you could be allergic to any food and 49% did not know that you could develop an allergy to a food that you have eaten before without a reaction

“To have any chance of preventing food allergic reactions, including fatalities, we need to significantly increase community awareness so that those with food allergy can work toward avoidance and everyone can spot the signs of anaphylaxis and know what to do in an emergency," said Maria Said, A&AA CEO.

“Community education is essential to prevent life threatening reactions including fatalities and this new research shows we have a huge task ahead of us. The research also found most Australians (62%) would like to have a better understanding about food allergy."

It is estimated that more than 650,000 Australians have a diagnosed food allergy with around 30,000 new cases in Australia every year.

The study also showed while most respondents were aware that more common allergies like peanut (81%), shellfish (65%) and seafood (52%) could be life-threatening, few realised that reactions to any food including other triggers like banana (8%), kiwifruit (9%), and celery (6%) could also be potentially fatal.

Allergic reaction symptoms

One or more of the following symptoms can indicate a severe allergic reaction:

– Dizziness
– Collapse
– Pale and floppy (young children)
– Swelling of the tongue
– Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
– Difficult breathing/noisy breathing
– Wheeze or persistent cough
– Swelling or tightness in the throat

It is important to remember a mild or moderate allergic reaction can quickly progress to anaphylaxis.

First aid

1. Lay person flat and raise their legs if possible (if breathing is difficult allow to sit)
2. Administer the adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen)
3. Call an ambulance
4. Call their emergency contact
5. After 5 minutes, if there is no response or their condition is worsening, administer a second adrenaline autoinjector (if available)

If someone with known food or insect allergy suddenly develops severe asthma-like symptoms, give adrenaline autoinjector FIRST, then asthma reliever.


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