If someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, it’s important to treat them quickly to relieve the symptoms.
MILD TO MODERATE ALLERGIC REACTIONS
Most allergic reactions are mild to moderate. The most common symptoms to look out for are:
· Swelling on the face, for example, lips, face or eyes
· An itchy or tingly mouth
· Hives or itchy skin rash
· Abdominal pain or vomiting
For a full list, please check out our article about the symptoms of food allergy and allergic reactions.
If you spot these signs:
1. Stay with the person with the allergy
2. Call for help if necessary
3. Locate their adrenaline auto-injectors (EpiPen or Jext) if they have been prescribed them
4. Give them a dose of antihistamine
5. Note the time
The antihistamine should work quickly but you should continue to monitor the person experiencing the reaction in case things become more serious and they develop anaphylaxis.
It’s important to remember that allergic reactions aren’t always linear, in other words, they don’t always progress from mild symptoms to something more serious. Sometimes a person will have a very serious allergic reaction within minutes of eating a food, without displaying symptoms such as a rash or hives first.
If you see any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction below, you should treat the reaction as anaphylaxis.
TREATING A SEVERE ALLERGIC REACTION/ ANAPHYLAXIS
The main symptoms of anaphylaxis are often remembered by the initials ABC:
· Consciousness or circulation.
Airway-related problems might manifest themselves as a persistent cough, a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing or a swollen tongue.
Breathing might be difficult or noisy and you might hear the person wheezing or coughing.
If the circulation or consciousness is affected, the person might feel dizzy, go pale or floppy or suddenly become very sleepy. Sometimes they will collapse or fall unconscious.
You can read more about the symptoms here.
If you suspect anaphylaxis, here are the steps you should take:
1. Administer an adrenaline auto-injector into the upper outer thigh muscle. This is the first thing you should do, before calling for help or using any other medication. The person should be lying down, ideally with their legs raised, if they are having trouble breathing, they can sit on a chair. Small children may need to be held on your lap. Make a note of the time.
REMEMBER: Always take the medication to the person suffering the allergic reaction because moving around or walking could make their symptoms worse.
2. Call 999 and ask for an ambulance and explain you are responding to anaphylaxis (pronounced “ANA-FILL-AXIS”). Be clear this is a life-threatening allergic reaction which needs an urgent response.
3. If after 5 minutes there is no improvement, administer a second pen. Call 999 and tell them you have administered a second pen.
4. Do not let the person stand up, even if they are feeling better, until a healthcare professional has reviewed the person.
5. If the person carries an inhaler this can be used to relieve wheezing, but make sure to give this after the adrenaline pen.
How do you give adrenaline to a child having an allergic reaction?
Our training videos below show you how to administer adrenaline to a child and how to support a young person administering their own adrenaline.
There are two brands of adrenaline pen available in the UK: EpiPen and Jext.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: On 9th May 2023, Emerade adrenline pens were recalled due to concerns that they might not work correctly if they have been dropped. Anyone with an Emerade pen should obtain a prescription for a different brand of device from their GP or pharmacy. For more information read our Q&A about the Emerade recall.
Please watch the training videos below to understand how to administer each brand. Whilst they all do the same job, they are used in slightly different ways so it’s important to familiarise yourself with how to use the adrenaline auto-injector prescribed for you or your child.