Anaphylaxis: a matter of life and death

Would you know how to react?

For most of us, enjoying our favourite meals and snacks without a second thought is a luxury we take for granted. 

But for 10-year-old William and 7-year-old Ellie, a single bite of the wrong food could be deadly. 

“William started to have a reaction to breast milk at only a few weeks old, and it took us months to get a doctor to take us seriously,” their mother Jessie Kapitola explained. 

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Tiny Tots First Aid course online

When William was 7-months-old, tests revealed anaphylaxis to pistachios and cashews, as well as severe environmental allergies: asthma, oral allergy syndrome (foods including apple, kiwi fruit and cabbage) and an allergy to the cold.  

His younger sibling Ellie also started showing a reaction to breast milk at only five weeks of age. 

“She was so severely allergic that if you just touched her skin with the allergen on your hand she would swell up and become covered in hives,” Jessie said. 

“Her anaphylaxis to peanuts is quite severe, but she also has multiple other food allergies; including eggs, dairy and she is only now just intolerant to wheat and soy.”


Thanks to her participation in numerous first aid training courses, Jessie is now equipped with the skills and confidence to save her children in the event of an anaphylactic reaction. 

“It is so easy for things to happen with kids, especially when they are active, busy little kids,” she said. 

“To have those skills fresh in your mind when you have little ones is so important”. 

“I have had times when my children have had quite bad injuries or had an anaphylactic reaction and knowing what to do, knowing the steps I had to take to keep them safe, sits at the forefront of your mind. 

“I felt quite shocked and shaky afterwards, but it means at the time, when you really need to be calm, you can be, because you know what you have to do.”

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Tiny Tots First Aid course online

Jessie “without a doubt” encouraged parents and members of the community to exercise their duty of care by enrolling in training. 

A national study commissioned by Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) in 2017 revealed four out of five Australian adults do not have the ability to recognise if someone was having a potentially fatal allergic reaction, with 69% unaware of how to help someone suffering from anaphylaxis. 

Chief Executive Officer Maria Said from AA&A suggested the results highlighted a critical need for widespread community education. 

“Australia has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the developed world and it is increasing at a frightening rate. One in ten babies born today will develop a food allergy,” she said.

“We all need to be allergy aware – how to use an adrenaline auto-injector must become common first aid knowledge, just like CPR.” 

How the Tiny Tots First Aid course can help

Tiny tots first aid

St John WA Training Team Leader Jo Read said life can be scary and isolating for children with anaphylaxis if their condition is not understood by their caregivers. 

The Tiny Tots First Aid course teaches participants the life-saving skills to recognise and react to allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.

The stories that have stuck with me are the ones from parents and grandparents who have accidentally injected themselves instead of the casualty, highlighting the importance of knowing how to use medication correctly,” Jo said.

“This is why training is so important. Simple sayings we teach when injecting an EpiPen such as ‘orange to the thigh and blue to the sky’ could be the thing that in a stressful situation will save a life.”

Video courtesy of Itchin Kitchen

Participants will also leave the course with the ability to perform CPR, manage bleeding and react to incidents of choking, burns, poisoning, fever and asthma. 

The course ranges from minor injuries that will be used a lot through your child's life, such as abrasions and blood noses, through to the more life-threatening situations such as choking, anaphylaxis and CPR,” she said. 

“The most important skill would be knowing what to do and when the extra help is needed from 000.”

The concise 3.5 hour Tiny Tots First Aid course costs just $50 and is available in both metro and regional areas. 

For more information or to book your place, contact our team (08) 9334 1233 or visit our website to secure you place online.

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