Anaphylaxis - Schools and Community Settings

What is Anaphylaxis?

Comprendre ce qu’est l’anaphylaxie à l’école et dans la collectivité.

Anaphylaxis (pronounced anna-fill-axis) is the most serious type of allergic reaction. It can progress very quickly and may cause death without proper medical attention.

An allergen is a substance which can cause an allergic reaction. While food is one of the most common allergens, medicine, insect stings, latex and exercise can also cause a reaction.

Signs & Symptoms

An allergic reaction usually happens within minutes after being exposed to an allergen, but sometimes it can take place several hours after exposure. A reaction can involve any of these symptoms and a person could have one or more of these symptoms regardless of the allergen: 

  • Skin System
    • Hives
    • Swelling
    • Itching
    • Warmth
    • Redness
    • Rash
  • Respiratory System (Breathing)
    • Coughing
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain/tightness
    • Throat tightness
    • Hoarse voice
    • Nasal congestion
    • Hay fever-like symptoms (runny itchy nose and watery eyes, sneezing)
    • Trouble swallowing
  • Gastrointestinal System (Stomach)
    • Nausea
    • Pain/cramps
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
  • Cardiovascular System (Heart)
    • Pale/blue colour
    • Weak pulse
    • Passing out
    • Dizzy/lightheaded
    • Shock
  • Other Signs & Symptoms
    • Anxiety
    • Feeling of "impending doom"
    • Headache
    • Uterine cramps
    • Metallic taste

The most dangerous symptoms of an allergic reaction, that will lead to death if untreated, are:

  • Trouble Breathing
    • Caused by swelling of the airways (including a severe asthma attack for people who have asthma)
  • A Drop in Blood Pressure
    • Causing dizziness
    • Light-headedness
    • Feeling faint or weak
    • Passing out

Be Prepared

When it comes to anaphylaxis, reactions can be unpredictable, so being well prepared is always necessary. Education and emergency planning are key in reducing exposure and responding appropriately.

When a reaction occurs:

  • Administer epinephrine immediately. If possible, do not leave the individual unattended.
  • Call 911
  • Call parents/guardian
  • Lay individual on their back, legs elevated. If vomiting roll them to their side.
  • Await medical assistance.


Source: Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology