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First Aid: Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions can be triggered by foods, medicines, pets, insect stings, pollen, and other things. Most allergic reactions aren't serious. But severe reactions can be life-threatening and need medical care right away.

First Aid

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Allergic Reactions?

Signs of a Mild Allergic Reaction:

  • itchy and slightly swollen skin
  • change in skin tone or color, like red or a deeper shade of the skin tone
  • stuffy, runny nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • red bumps (hives) anywhere on the body

Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction:

  • swelling of the mouth or tongue
  • trouble swallowing or speaking
  • wheezing or trouble breathing
  • belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • dizziness or fainting

What Can I Do About Allergic Reactions?

  • If the symptoms are severe and you have an epinephrine autoinjector, use it as directed right away and call 911 for emergency medical help.
  • If the symptoms are mild, give an antihistamine by mouth such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl or a store brand). If your child keeps having mild allergy symptoms, let your doctor know.
  • Call the doctor if your child has an allergic reaction that is more than mild or worries you.

What Can Help Prevent Allergic Reactions?

Help kids avoid anything they're allergic to, and keep an oral antihistamine available.

If your child has a severe allergy or has had a severe reaction and the doctor prescribes epinephrine auto injectors, they will show you how to use them. Two auto injectors should always be with your child in case one injector does not work or your child needs a second dose. Always treat a serious reaction with epinephrine. Never use antihistamines instead of epinephrine in serious reactions.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

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