Allergies, or allergic reactions, are common and can affect people of any age. They occur when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance called an allergen. Typically, allergies present with minor symptoms that can be immediately managed with prompt care. However, certain cases may lead to life-threatening complications that require emergency medical attention. Having a better understanding of common allergies and their treatment can help save your own or someone’s life.
What Are The Causes Of Allergic Reactions?
There are hundreds of different causes that can trigger an allergic reaction. You may be allergic to something from an early age or develop it later in life. Some common allergens include:
- Foods: Nuts (including peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashew nuts), shellfish, eggs, soy, wheat, and dairy items.
- Venom: From insect bite or stings
- Latex: A type of rubber that is used in the production of different materials
- Medications: Penicillin, aspirin or ibuprofen
- Airborne allergens: pollen, dust mites, fur from animals, and mold
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction?
The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from person to person, even if it occurs in response to a similar allergen. They may be mild after an initial exposure but can worsen if you frequently come into contact with the triggering factor. Common signs include:
- Hives, rashes, or itchiness of the skin
- Itchy or red eyes
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest tightness
- Nasal congestion
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fear or anxiety
In medical terms, a severe allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis. It can develop within a few seconds or minutes after exposure to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can lead to life-threatening complications, so it is crucial to seek emergency medical care as soon as possible.
What Steps Should You Take If An Allergic Reaction Occurs?
If you have a known allergy, it is always helpful to be prepared in advance if an allergic reaction occurs. However, if you or someone else develops a sudden allergic reaction, here is what you can do:
- Use an epinephrine auto-injector: People with known allergies often carry an epinephrine auto-injector. Read the instructions on the injector before using it. It immediately resolves the symptoms in most cases.
- Call for emergency medical care: Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and requires professional medical attention. Call 911 or your nearest emergency service and inform them about your situation.
- Adjust the position: If the person having an allergic reaction is unconscious, lie them on their side and elevate their legs to improve blood circulation.
- Begin CPR: Check the pulse and breathing rate. If the person’s breathing or pulse halts, immediately begin CPR until help arrives.
- Keep track of events: Once the paramedic staff arrives, inform them about the events to help them understand the cause of the allergy. If you have given any medication, also inform them about it.
Allergic reactions may occur at any time and can cause severe complications if left untreated. For prompt medical care, call Emergency Hospital Systems at (281) 592-5410 to receive immediate help from our trained professionals.