Her Check-Up: Dealing With An Allergic Reaction
Allergic reactions occur when the body reacts to sensitive substances called allergens, that can come into contact with the skin, nose, eyes, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract.
Allergens can be in direct contact with the body, or breathed into the lungs, swallowed or injected.
While most allergic reactions are common and considered mild, there are life-threatening and severe reactions in some people.
Most people react to an allergen almost immediately after they come into contact with the substance. This can cause itchiness, or discomfort. The most severe form of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, causing anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that occurs within minutes of exposure. Immediate medical attention is needed for this condition. Without treatment, anaphylaxis can get worse very quickly and lead to death within 15 minutes.
What are the most common causes of allergens?
Common allergens in people include:
- Animal dander
- Bee stings or stings from other insects
- Foods, especially nuts, fish, and shellfish
- Insect bites
Shellfish are a common food allergen for many people
These allergens usually cause a mild allergic reaction including hives, itching, nasal congestion, rashes or for your eyes to water.
Symptoms of a moderate or severe reaction include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
- Chest discomfort or tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Flushing or redness of the face
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
How can you treat an allergic reaction?
If you are suffering from a mild allergic reaction, an over-the-counter antihistamines should help reduce any swelling or side-effects of the allergen to the body. Treat any itches or hives with a suitable cream and apply a cool, damp cloth to reduce the heat of hives or rashes.
If you or a friend suffers from a severe reaction, try to remain calm as anxiety can make symptoms worse.
For a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), check the person's airway, breathing, and circulation. Contact the emergency services as soon as possible and administer any emergency allergy medication if the sufferer has it on hand. Avoid oral medication if the person is having difficulty breathing.
Wait for the emergency services to arrive and try keep the patient calm while waiting for assistance.
How can you be tested for allergic reactions?
The most common way of identifying allergens is by being tested.
This can be done by:
- Skin tests
- Challenge (elimination) tests
- Blood tests
If you would like to get tested for allergies, consult your doctor and book an appointment to talk through your concerns.