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Allergic Reactions 101: How To Spot Them And What To Do

March 31, 2017
medical care

Allergic reactions can be frightening and unpredictable, starting and progressing quite rapidly. If you or a loved one suffers a sudden allergic reaction, it is important to know how to spot the symptoms and find immediate medical care. Use this guide to be prepared to respond.

What Is An Allergic Reaction?
Allergies happen when the immune system attacks a substance that is foreign to the body, just as it does with viruses and bacteria. Even if this substance is completely harmless, the body often has an adverse reaction anyway.

What Are The Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction?
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the reaction. For mild reactions, an individual might experience itching of the skin, eyes, and throat. They might also develop a rash or hives, and experience nasal congestion.

For severe allergic reactions, or anaphylactic reactions, the symptoms are much more serious. These include but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face or tongue
  • Stomach pain or nausea
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Heart palpitations

What Should I Do If Someone Is Having An Allergic Reaction?
For a mild reaction, taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl could ease the symptoms. These medications are available over the counter. For a severe allergic reaction, however, immediate care is required. Call 9-1-1 or bring the individual to the closest medical center immediately. Avoid going to your primary care doctor, as only 29% of offices have after-hours care available. If you or the person you are helping has an EpiPen, be sure to administer the medication as soon as possible before seeking further medical care. If they pass out, be sure to lay them on their back and elevate their feet in order to prevent anaphylactic shock.

How Can I Prevent Allergic Reactions?
The best way to avoid allergic reactions is to be aware of your allergies. Going to an allergy specialist for a basic medical test can help you determine what food and other substances to avoid. Other than being aware, the best thing you can do is be prepared. If you know that you have a severe allergy, keep your EpiPen or other emergency medications on you at all times. While these reactions are preventable, they can also sneak up on you.