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5 Ways to Prepare for an Allergy Emergency

Quick action will help if your child has a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). It's a good idea to occasionally review the instructions your doctor gave you about treating allergic reactions and run through the steps you would take in an emergency.

Here's a checklist for any parent of a child with a serious allergy:

  1. If your doctor prescribed epinephrine auto injectors for emergencies, make sure two of them are always with your child or with an adult who is caring for your child — at school, at a birthday party, on vacation. Always have two epinephrine auto injectors with you, in case one doesn't work or you need a second dose. Talk with the school about where they store epinephrine auto injectors and how your child can get them quickly, if needed.
  2. Review the allergy action plan your doctor gave you and know the signs of an anaphylactic reaction — such as trouble breathing, rash, swelling, repeated vomiting, loss of consciousness, and wheezing — and be ready to act quickly. Use the epinephrine auto injector if your child has one severe symptom, such has trouble breathing, or two or more mild to severe symptoms, such as hives plus vomiting. Follow the instructions the doctor gave you. Teach your child and those who care for your child to do the same.
  3. Practice how to use the epinephrine auto injector often. Are there caps to remove or twist? Which end rests on the skin? Where on the body do you give the injection? How do you hold the injector? Ask for a demonstration at your doctor's office. Visit the manufacturer's website to get detailed instructions. Some manufacturers also may supply a trainer injector that has no epinephrine in it, so you can practice all the steps safely. As your child gets older, make sure they practice too.
  4. If your child has a serious reaction, use the auto injector right away. Have someone call 911 while you give the injection. If no one else is with you and your child, give the injection first and then call 911 to take your child to the nearest emergency room. Take the used epinephrine injector to the hospital with you. During an anaphylactic reaction, your child may have a second wave of symptoms and may need a second dose of epinephrine. Always have 2 epinephrine auto injectors available at all times. Remember that antihistamines do not treat life-threatening symptoms and are not a replacement for epinephrine.
  5. Store the auto injectors according to the manufacturer's directions. Don't leave them in the car or anywhere else where they might get too hot or too cold; temperature can affect how well epinephrine works. Always know when your epinephrine auto injectors expire and get new ones before they do.

Reviewed by: Hillary B. Gordon, MD
Date Reviewed: Nov 1, 2021

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