When Allergies Become an Emergency01 Jan 2020
An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system responds to a substance that it deems potentially harmful, even when it’s not. The allergic reactions can happen at any time when you come in contact with an allergen. In most cases, the allergic reactions are mild and a shot of epinephrine or antihistamines can solve the problems. However, at times the reactions may be severe causing anaphylaxis, an emergency allergic reaction.
How to Identify an Allergic Emergency Reaction?
An anaphylactic reaction occurs in stages, but it takes a few minutes to move from exposure to severe symptoms.
The allergic reactions occur in seconds when your body comes into contact with an allergen whether through inhalation, swallowing, injection or touching. Milder allergies don’t cause any noticeable symptoms and can last for a few hours. However, in an anaphylactic reaction, your initial symptoms will include:
- Chest tightness and discomfort
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin redness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion and slurred speech
These symptoms may quickly turn to severe problems and if they go untreated you may develop other symptoms such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Low of oxygen
- Severe swelling on the face or eyes
- Blockage of airways
What to Do During an Allergic Reaction?
If you have allergies, it is crucial to have a hospital near you that offers allergy services because an anaphylactic reaction can only be treated in an emergency room.
During an allergic reaction, you can do the following:
1. Contact emergency services
Call our emergency care unit or 911 immediately a reaction occurs. Don’t panic and stay with the person until the emergency assistance arrives.
2. Give epinephrine as the first-line medication
According to research, most people with allergic reactions die because epinephrine was either underused, delayed to be administered, or not used at all.
No one can tell how an anaphylactic reaction will play out and the episode differs from one person to the next. Therefore, epinephrine should be given when you suspect an anaphylactic episode, however mild it may appear. Additionally, don’t let the patient self-administer the injection as they may be anxious to do it.
A second epinephrine shot should be given five minutes after the first dose, especially if the symptoms don’t improve. Signs that the symptoms are worsening include difficulty breathing or decreased level of consciousness.
3. Don’t use antihistamines or asthma medications
Although these medications are not harmful, they are not proven to stop an emergency allergic reaction. Antihistamines are slow in showing results and may not be effective in treating an anaphylactic reaction. You may, however, use them for treating skin allergies or hives.
4. Use an ambulance to the hospital
It may be tempting to drive the person to the hospital but don’t. An anaphylactic reaction is a critical condition and if not treated properly could turn deadly. The epinephrine injection may be effective after the first shot, but the symptoms can recur. Sometimes repeated reactions have occurred with hours without exposure to the allergen. Using an ambulance can help the emergency team to monitor the condition.
5. The patient should lie down
Unless the patient has severe respiratory distress or vomiting, they should lie down with legs elevated to improve blood circulation. The patient should stay in this position until the symptoms subside to the emergency team arrives.
Don’t allow the patient to stand or sit up immediately after a reaction as it could cause a drop in blood pressure.
What to Do After an Allergic Reaction?
After the emergency reaction, there may be feelings of anxiety. If possible, speak to the family member and reassure them you support them. Additionally, make an appointment with an allergist to review the reaction and what can be done to prevent further episodes. It is also vital to create an emergency action plan with the allergist for a better response next time.
Anaphylaxis can be fatal and it is critical to respond in time to avoid any complications. At Preferred Urgent Care we offer emergency allergy services in Katy, TX, so call us as soon as an allergic reaction occurs.