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Allergy & Anaphylaxis

An allergy is an overreaction by the body’s immune system to a normally harmless substance. Substances that can trigger an allergic reaction are called allergens.

Allergic reactions can occur to medication, insect stings and bites, allergens in the environment (eg. pollens, grasses, moulds, dogs and cats), or proteins (most often) in the foods we eat. Individuals can have mild/moderate or severe allergies.

Individuals can have mild/moderate or severe allergies.

Allergies should not to be confused with an intolerance, which does not involve the immune system - see Food Intolerance

In Australia allergies are very common. Around one in three people will develop allergies at some time during their life. The most common allergic conditions are food allergies, eczema, asthma and hay fever. Food allergy occurs in around ten percent of infants up to age 12 months¹ and approximately two percent of adults.2

1. Osborne NJ, Koplin JJ, Martin PE, Gurrin LC, Lowe AJ, Matheson MC, Ponsonby AL, Wake M, Tang ML, Dharmage SC, Allen KJ; HealthNuts Investigators. Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy using population-based sampling and predetermined challenge criteria in infants. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011; 127 (3):668-76.

2. SA Dept. Health. Food Act Report: Year ending 30 June 2010. 2010:36

Content updated March 2023



Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) is a charitable, not-for-profit organisation. Our purpose is to listen, guide and educate Australians living with allergic disease.  Learn more


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Food Allergy Week 26 May - 1 June 2024

Newly diagnosed

Being diagnosed with a potentially severe allergy is scary. But don’t worry, you’re not alone – help and support is available. Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia is a national support group for people caring for or at risk of anaphylaxis. More

Living with the risk

You can lead a close to normal life, even if you are at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction. While many people feel alone, overwhelmed or even angry when they are first diagnosed, remember that help and support is available. More

Eating out confidently

Eating out with a food allergy doesn't have to be a challenge, with a little planning and some sensible know-how, the risk of an allergic reaction when eating out can be minimised. See our eating out with food allergies resources. More

Allergic Conditions

In Australia allergies are very common. Around one in three people will develop allergies at some time during their life. The most common allergic conditions are food allergies, eczema, asthma and hay fever. Less common but no less important are ingested or injected drug and insect allergy. More

Anaphylaxis defined

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening. 
It must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention. Anaphylaxis is a generalised allergic reaction. More

Help Information

Don’t miss out on life because you have an allergy. With some forward planning and good communication, you can participate in almost anything you desire. A&AA has a range of information including air travel, eating out, hospital stays, school medication placement and tips for entertaining. More

How to give EpiPen® injector

EpiPen® is an adrenaline (epinephrine) injector. It is life saving medication for someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction/anaphylaxis. 
If you believe someone is experiencing anaphylaxis you MUST GIVE the adrenaline (epinephrine) injector (e.g. EpiPen®) according to instruction on the ASCIA Action Plan. More

How to give Anapen® injector

Anapen® is an adrenaline (epinephrine) injector. It is life saving medication for someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction/anaphylaxis. 
If you believe someone is experiencing anaphylaxis you MUST GIVE the adrenaline (epinephrine) injector (e.g. Anapen®) according to instruction on the ASCIA Action Plan. More

How to position a patient

For someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction/anaphylaxis
- lay person flat - do NOT allow them to stand or walk
- If unconscious, place in recovery position
- If breathing is difficult allow them to sit
More

IN AN EMERGENCY

If you are having an allergic reaction follow advice on your ASCIA Action Plan.

If in doubt, give the Anapen® or EpiPen®.

Do not call us for emergency advice.

If you do not have an ASCIA Action Plan and/or an Anapen® or EpiPen® call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.