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How to Tell Severity of Kids' Food Allergy Reactions

Part of the Kids’ Food Allergies For Dummies Cheat Sheet (Australia/New Zealand Edition)

Carers of children with food allergies must be able to tell the difference between a mild or moderate allergic reaction, and a severe reaction anaphylaxis (which is life-threatening). Without this knowledge, the child’s life can be put in danger, because anaphylaxis requires an urgent injection of adrenaline (with an EpiPen or AnaPen).

The following lists provide a summary of the symptoms of mild to moderate allergic reactions and a severe reaction (anaphylaxis).

Signs of a mild to moderate allergic reaction (listed in order of frequency of symptoms in cases):

  • Hives

  • Swelling of the lips, eyes or face

  • Vomiting and abdominal pain

Signs of anaphylaxis — any of the preceding signs together with any one of the following (listed in order of frequency of symptoms in cases):

  • Persistent coughing

  • Wheezing or noisy breathing

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Hoarse voice

  • Loss of consciousness or collapse

  • Pale and floppy (infants and young children)

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