Adrenal Crisis - Be Prepared

Around 8% of people with Addison's disease experience an adrenal crisis each year; some people more frequently than others. It's vitally important you learn the signs of an impending crisis and what to do in this medical emergency.

An adrenal crisis occurs in people with Addison’s when the cortisol present in their body is not sufficient to keep it functioning. Common triggers include vomiting, diarrhoea, other infections (eg flu) or extreme emotional stress. An adrenal crisis is a life-threatening situation and requires immediate medical treatment with an emergency injection of hydrocortisone.

How do I know if I'm experiencing an adrenal crisis?

This video contains interviews with some of our members, who've experienced an adrenal crisis first-hand.

Get an emergency injection kit - it may save your life

After diagnosis, you should be issued with an emergency injection kit which contains vials of hydrocortisone that either you or a friend or family member can administer if you are vomiting and unable to absorb oral tablets, or showing other signs of severe illness. These kits are usually prescribed by your endocrinologist or GP. If you are not offered one, you should ask your GP for this.

Learn more about emergency injection kits

In our online shop, we also sell emergency injection boxes (minus the drug preparations which your GP needs to prescribe). These come with photo instructions on how to give the injection and allow you to keep all the materials needed to give the injection in the same place. We ask our community to share their kits using the hashtag #ShareYourKit. 

Visit our #ShareYourKit blog

People with Addison's require an emergency injection kit (100mg hydrocortisone) for at home, when travelling and on holiday, for use in an emergency to avoid precipitating an acute adrenal crisis. This is so either you or a friend or family member can immediately administer if you are vomiting and unable to absorb oral tablets, or showing other signs of severe illness.

Therefore if there is a delay in getting an ambulance to you or in a busy hospital A&E department, the hydrocortisone injection means that you will be safe from the adrenal point of view until you receive further medical attention.

Provision of a hydrocortisone emergency injection kit is standard practice and is the advice given by the ADSHG Clinical Advisory Panel and Society for Endocrinology, for the prevention of an acute adrenal crisis. If you're a medic and would like more information on this, please visit our 'Why should I give my Adrenal Insufficiency Patient an Emergency Injection Kit?' page. If you are a person living with Addison's or adrenal insufficiency, and are being refused a kit, please scroll to 'What to do if you are refused an injection kit' on our Emergency Injection Kit page.

Learn how to administer an emergency injection - practise makes perfect!

Visit our Emergency Injection Guide now to learn how to use your injection kit, hear about personal experiences of using it, and watch video demonstrations to help you get it right first time.