When the body senses the presence of a foreign substance, known as an antigen, it triggers the immune system. While the immune system naturally keeps the body protected from toxins, bacteria, and other harmful agents, when it overreacts to an allergen it’s known as an allergic reaction. It’s unknown why the body develops allergies, but certain substances are known to commonly cause allergic reactions, including certain plants, molds, insect bites, medications, molds, or even foods, such as shellfish or nuts. In many cases, allergic reactions are quite mild. However, when severe allergic reactions occur, emergency medical treatment is necessary.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
When a mild allergic reaction occurs, the symptoms are quite mild, and may include:
- Scratchy throat
- Hives (red, itchy spots on the skin)
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
In some cases, allergic reactions may become severe, resulting in the following symptoms:
- Anxiety or fear
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Cramping or pain in the abdomen
- Heart palpitations
- Facial flushing
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Problems swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue, eyes, or face
- General weakness
If someone experiences any of these severe symptoms, it’s essential to ensure they receive emergency care from a medical professional.
Sudden, severe allergic reactions have the potential to develop within just a few seconds after an individual is exposed to an allergen. This is called anaphylaxis and can result in serious, life-threatening symptoms, such as the inability to breathe, severe, sudden drop in blood pressure, and swelling of the airways. Emergency medical attention is always required, since this condition may be fatal in just 15 minutes if it’s left untreated.
Who is at Risk?
Who is at risk for having an allergic reaction? You may have a higher risk of an allergic reaction if you:
- Are a young child. Kids are more likely to have allergic reactions than adults are, and many children outgrow allergies as they age.
- Have asthma. If you have asthma or another type of allergic condition, you’re more likely to develop an allergy that results in an allergic reaction
- Have a history of allergies or asthma in the family. If any family members have allergies, such as hives or hay fever, or asthma, you have a higher risk for an allergic reaction.
- Have had a prior allergic reaction, even to a different antigen
Treatment for Allergic Reactions
In many cases, antihistamine medications are used to treat allergic reactions. However, when severe reactions occur, other therapies may be needed, such as intravenous fluids to help boost blood pressure steroids to block the allergic reaction, or oxygen and breathing treatments to alleviate breathing difficulties when anaphylactic shock occurs. Epinephrine may also need to be given to treat a severe reaction, and it works by dilating breathing tubes and increases blood pressure by constricting blood vessels
When to Seek Emergency Treatment
Anyone who experiences a severe allergic reaction should receive emergency medical treatment as quickly as possible. Pinnacle ER offers the facilities, diagnostic tools, and services required to treat patients suffering from severe allergic reactions.