How to Recognize a Severe Allergic Reaction and What to Do About It

How to Recognize a Severe Allergic Reaction and What to Do About It

Learning how to recognize a severe allergic reaction and what to do about it can mean the difference between literal life and death.

When someone is experiencing anaphylaxis, which is the term for a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, it is extremely important for you to remain calm and to act quickly. Panicking will just delay potentially life-saving treatment, which is why acting in a calm, deliberate manner is very important. 

It is also important to understand what these severe kinds of allergic reactions look like and what steps you should take as soon as you see someone going into anaphylactic shock.

What Causes Allergic Reactions?

Allergic reactions are caused when your immune system responds to a foreign substance and treats it as a threat when it really isn’t. Your immune system is important because it protects you from harmful bacteria and viruses. However, sometimes your immune system will react inappropriately to a substance, attacking your body and triggering an allergic reaction.

When this happens,your body releases histamine in an attempt to destroy the foreign substance that it has mistaken as harmful. This results in various allergy symptoms up to and including anaphylaxis.

What Are Signs of an Allergic Reaction?

How can you tell when someone is having an allergic reaction? Fortunately, there are often some signs that someone is suffering from an allergic reaction, and being able to spot these signs will enable you to intervene quickly. 

Some common allergy symptoms are hives on the face. Hives are clusters of raised bumps on the skin that are usually red and itchy. They are a result of histamine being released by the body during an allergic reaction. 

Other symptoms that are commonly seen in allergic reactions are an allergy rash, difficulty breathing, a rapid heart rate, and pale skin. Early signs of an allergic reaction could be an allergy rash. 

While a rash may not seem like a major problem, it’s also the first of many allergy symptoms that show up, which is why even a mild rash caused by an allergic reaction should be treated seriously. 

Signs of a more severe allergic reaction include a swollen tongue and dizziness. If you see any of these allergy symptoms, taking swift action can help to prevent a bad situation from escalating into something far worse.

Learn About Common Allergies

Oral allergy symptoms affect the mouth and throat when someone consumes something that they are allergic to. Food allergy symptoms can show up in the form of a rash and lead to anaphylaxis.

Common food allergies include peanuts, shellfish and other foods. Many people are also allergic to medications, pollen, and insect stings. 

What’s important to remember is that an allergy can develop at any time. For example, you could have salmon every week for several years without a problem and then suddenly start developing hives due to a newly acquired allergy. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to recognize allergy symptoms because you never know when an allergic reaction will occur.

How to Tell If Someone Is Going Into Shock

An allergic reaction happens when your body releases histamine when it is exposed to an allergen. Allergies are very common, but some people have allergic reactions that are far more severe. An anaphylactic reaction often involves a rash and a rapid heartbeat.

When someone is having an anaphylactic reaction, their airways will narrow, which means they may have difficulty breathing or have a sore throat. Cramps and intestinal problems can also signal anaphylactic shock. 

Recognizing that someone is having a severe allergic reaction like this quickly is the key to getting them the help that they need. 

As a general rule of thumb, always err on the side of caution. It’s much better to mistakenly assume that someone is having an anaphylactic reaction than it is to not notice one and get the person the help they need right away.

What to Do If Someone Is Going Into Allergic Shock

If you suspect that someone is going into anaphylactic shock, you need to recognize that this is a medical emergency. Anaphylaxis can cause major health problems and can even kill someone, and it can happen very quickly. 

The first thing you should do if you suspect someone is suffering from anaphylaxis is to call 911.

If you can get the person with the allergic reaction to a hospital yourself quickly, then do so. If not, then wait for an ambulance. While waiting, or while transporting them to the hospital, do your best to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. If they start to panic and hyperventilate, it may make a bad situation worse.

While waiting before you give the person suffering from anaphylaxis, diphenhydramine can help to slow down the progression of their symptoms. Diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, is sometimes given to patients suffering from anaphylaxis via I.V. in the hospital. 

While giving them oral diphenhydramine won’t work as quickly as intravenous medication, it may be recommended because it starts to get medication into their system. Make sure that you remember how much you gave them so you can tell paramedics or hospital staff.

What Precautions Should People With Allergies Take?

While everyone should be aware of the potential dangers of allergic reactions, people who have had a serious reaction before should take extra precautions. Anyone that has ever had a serious allergic reaction before should ask their doctor for a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector. 

These devices are simple to use injector that delivers a pre-measured dose of epinephrine. Epinephrine is synthetic adrenaline, and once injected it can often open up airways quickly and stop an allergic reaction in its tracks. It’s important to remember that even if someone seems fine after being given an injection, they still need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible to ensure that the reaction doesn’t start again.