Inconsistencies in use of red (or other colour) wrist bands for patients with anaphylaxis history

ANZCA has become aware of considerable variation between hospitals and facilities in the use of red or other colour wrist bands on patients to indicate a history of anaphylaxis.

As many fellows work across multiple sites, we ask you to take care to know the wrist band practices in each hospital or facility you work in.

We also remind you never to rely on any wrist band as a primary source of information on a patient’s anaphylaxis history. To determine a patient’s anaphylaxis history, firstly, ask the patient during pre-anaesthesia consultation, and secondly, check the paper or electronic medical record.

In Australia, we are aware of different sites in the same city using red bands for anaphylaxis only, using red bands and red caps for anaphylaxis, using red bands for a variety of alerts in addition to anaphylaxis, or alternatively using only white bands for all patients.

In New Zealand, there is a history of using three different band colours to indicate drug allergy: blue, red or green.

As Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission recommendations remain non-directive, we expect variations in practice to continue for the moment.

This matter has been discussed in recent meetings of the Perioperative Allergy Sub-committee and the Safety and Quality Committee, and a working group will be formed to develop the college’s position further. An article will also appear in a future issue of the ANZCA Bulletin.

Last updated 14:48 11.11.2021