COLUMN: How to treat a severe allergic reaction

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This week we take a look at severe allergic reactions.

An allergy is an abnormal reaction to an allergen or trigger substance. One of the most common allergens is plant pollen which often causes hay fever. Other allergens include animal hair, bee stings, medication (especially penicillin) and food such as nuts and shellfish.

A severe allergic reaction can develop just seconds after someone comes into contact with the allergen. It can affect the whole body, and if it’s not treated quickly enough it can be potentially fatal. This is called anaphylactic shock.

What to look for:

• A red, itchy rash or raised area of skin (weals)

• Red, itchy, watering eyes

• Swelling of hands, feet or face

• Abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhoea.

There may also be:

• Difficulty in breathing

• Swelling of tongue and throat with puffiness around eyes

• Confusion and agitation

• Signs of shock leading to collapse and unresponsiveness.

What to do...

1. Call 999 or 112 straight away and give ambulance control the information that you suspect a severe allergic reaction.

2. If someone’s having a severe reaction, then they may have medication like an auto-injector. This is a pre-filled injection device containing adrenaline which when injected, can help reduce the body’s allergic reaction. Check if they have one, and if they do, help them to use it or do it yourself following the instructions.

3. Help them to get comfortable and monitor their breathing and level of response. Repeated doses of adrenaline can be given at five minute intervals if there is no improvement or the symptoms return.

Visit www.sja.org.uk for more first aid advice.