Need to Know: Emergency Treatment for Allergic Reactions

Jun 8, 2016

Need to Know: Emergency Treatment for Allergic Reactions

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Severe allergic reactions are a big deal and should not be treated lightly. Anaphylaxis is on of the most severe allergic reactions. It occurs when the body becomes hypersensitive to an antigen – an immune response inducer. It can be life threatening. The symptoms can appear with apparently no cause, within minutes of exposure to the allergen, or after a few hours. After initial treatment, the symptoms can even reappear, so make sure to seek emergency treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

There are a number of symptoms that are signs that you may be having an anaphylaxis reaction. They can vary from person to person and instance to instance, but they often include:

  • Skin: hives, itching, flushed, pale
  • Swelling: face, lips, eyes, throat, glands
  • Weak or rapid pulse, chest discomfort
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
  • Dizziness, fainting, lightheadedness, confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Wheezing, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing

Causes of Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions happen when the immune system overzealously tries to protect your body. Your immune system’s job is to protect your body from viruses and bacteria, but it can also label substances that don’t typically pose a threat to the body. The substances that your immune system thinks are causing a threat to your body are called allergens, and they cause allergic reactions. Some common allergy triggers include, but are not limited to:

  • Insect stings
  • Nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Medications
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

Emergency Treatment

When you begin to experience an allergic reaction or come into contact with something that you know causes a severe allergic reaction, knowing what to do in that situation is essential.

If you have already been diagnosed with a severe allergy, your doctor often prescribes an injectable epinephrine to carry around with you. If they have not, ask if it is a good idea for you. EpiPen and Auvi-Q are popular types.

If there has been exposure to an allergen and there have been severe reactions before, inject the epinephrine immediately, typically into the thigh, even before symptoms appear. With severe reactions, sooner is much better than later for emergency treatment because it is used to reverse the reactions.

After the injection, it is important to get to the emergency room immediately. Often, the injection reduces your symptoms and you begin to feel better, but even so, a trip to the emergency room is essential. They are able to properly evaluate your situation and provide any additional care that may be needed.

There is something called biphasic anaphylaxis, which is when your symptoms from the allergic reaction come back stronger several hours after the initial reaction. Because of this, a visit to the hospital is absolutely necessary. The doctors should monitor you for at least four hours, to make sure your symptoms do not reappear.

What NOT to Do 

There are specific things that you should and should not do when someone around you is having an anaphylaxis reaction.

  • If the person is having trouble breathing due to their reaction, do not give oral medicines. Injectable epinephrine and emergency treatment in a hospital is the best option.
  • If the allergic reaction is because of an insect sting, do not use tweezers to remove the stinger. Doing so will inject more venom into the person. Instead, use a fingernail or credit card to gently scrape the stinger out.
  • To prevent shock, lay the person down on their back or side with their feet elevated if possible, but do not cause them discomfort or put a pillow under their head. The point of this is to do everything in your power to keep them stable and alive while emergency responders are on their way.

Severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis should be treated immediately because if they are not, complications leading to death could occur. Knowing what the signs are and what you can do for immediate treatment can lessen the impact of the allergen and the associated reaction.

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