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Assessing and managing anaphylaxis in primary care

Margaret Perry explains what nurses need to know about these serious allergic reactions

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction, which is distressing and frightening for anybody affected. Episodes occur with variable degrees of severity, but in the most severe cases can result in death.

It is essential that clinicians can recognise symptoms early and respond quickly, and take appropriate steps to ensure the affected person makes a full recovery. This article therefore hopes to give an overview of recognition, causes, treatment and management and ensure that nurses have greater confidence in dealing with this urgent situation should they encounter it.


The problem can affect any one and at any age and can potentially be problematic in both men and women. The incidence in the UK is estimated to be about 1-3 reactions per 10,000 population per annum.1 Statistics from the US suggest that the overall frequency of episodes of anaphylaxis using current data lies between 30 and 950 cases per 100,000 persons per year.2 However, true and accurate prevalence rates are difficult to determine as milder cases may either go unrecognised or be attributed to another cause therefore resulting in misdiagnosis.

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