First Aid: Allergic Reactions
First Aid: Allergic Reactions
A limited (localized) reaction
affects only the area of contact. Some reactions may not show up for days. Others
occur almost right away.
Step 1. Stop the source
If the person has been
stung, calmly move away from the area to prevent more stings. Scrape the
stinger away with the edge of a credit card. Or the dull edge of a knife. Don’t
use fingers or tweezers to remove a stinger. If pinched, the stinger may empty
its venom into the skin.
If the reaction is caused
by eating a specific food or taking a medicine, the person should not eat or
take the substance again.
Step 2. Treat skin
Wash insect bites with
soap and water.
Remove and wash in hot
water all clothing that may have plant oils. Or any other substance that has
caused a reaction on them. Shower with plenty of soap to wash any plant oils or
other allergens off the skin.
Ask your healthcare
provider how to control itchy or irritated skin.
Anaphylaxis is a severe
life-threatening allergic reaction. This needs immediate medical attention. In extreme
cases, the airways from mouth to lungs may swell and cause difficulty breathing. The
reaction may happen right away or over several hours. Give epinephrine if it's available
away for medical help. Call even if the medicine seems to be helping.
Step 1. Calm the person
Help the person lie down
with their legs raised. Don't do this if they're vomiting or having trouble
breathing. If they are vomiting or having trouble breathing, help them into a
comfortable position with their legs raised if possible. Pregnant people should
be on their left side.
Tell the person to remain
still and limit talking. Reassure them that help is on the way.
Step 2. Give epinephrine if
If the person carries an
epinephrine auto-injector to control anaphylaxis, help them use it.
Prevent any further
contact with or exposure to allergen.
Step 3. Monitor breathing
Watch for signs of airway
swelling, such as wheezing or swollen lips. With an extreme reaction, the
person may have trouble getting any breath.
Do rescue breathing, if
needed. In extreme cases, you may not be able to get air into the lungs.
911 right away if the person has
any of the following. Or if they have a combination of mild or severe symptoms listed
Trouble breathing, shortness
of breath, wheezing, or continued cough
A history of airway swelling
- Continued vomiting
- Abdominal (belly) pain
- Severe diarrhea
Lips, skin, or nail beds look pale, blue, purple, or gray
Feeling faint, dizzy, or confused
Throat feels tight or hoarse
Trouble swallowing or talking
Swelling of the tongue or lips
Feeling of doom or feeling something bad is about to happen
Hives all over the body or redness
- Loss of consciousness
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals BSN MPH
Date Last Reviewed:
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