How to spot an allergic reaction

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

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Digestive System
Respiratory System
  • Hoarse voice
  • Persistent cough
  • Tight chest
  • Wheezing (like an asthma attack)
  • Itchy tongue / mouth / throat
  • Difficulty / painful swallowing
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swollen lips or face
  • Itchy red eyes
  • Itchy skin rash: hives, urticaria
  • Sudden sleepiness / unresponsive
  • Persistent dizziness
  • Fainting / unconscious
  • Sudden change in behaviour
  • Confusion
  • Hay fever symptoms: runny nose, sneezing

Anaphylaxis usually starts suddenly, and gets worse very quickly. Symptoms include:


  • Persistent cough
  • Vocal changes (hoarse voice)
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Swollen tongue


  • Difficult or noisy breathing
  • Wheezing (like an asthma attack)


  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Unresponsive/unconscious (due to a drop in blood pressure)

Anaphylaxis usually occurs together with more mild symptoms (such as an itchy mouth or skin rash), but can also happen on its own without less severe symptoms being present.

Always give adrenaline FIRST (before other medicines such as inhalers) in someone with known food allergy who has sudden-onset breathing difficulties – even if there are no skin symptoms.

Giving adrenaline can be lifesaving, and should be administered at the first signs of anaphylaxis. Delays in giving adrenaline are a common finding in fatal reactions.

IF IN DOUBT, give adrenaline.

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