Allergic Reactions – First Aid Advice

Allergic reactions first aid treatment (Anaphylaxis)

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can develop rapidly.

It is also known as anaphylactic shock.

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • breathing difficulties
  • feeling light-headed or faint
  • changes to your skin such as itchy skin or a raised red skin rash
  • swelling of certain body parts, particularly the face (angioedema)

The time it takes for symptoms of anaphylaxis to develop depends on the cause.

If it was something you ate, such as peanuts,  it can take anything from a few minutes to two hours. If it was something that entered your skin, such as a sting or an injection, it will usually take 5-30 minutes.

Allergic reactions can vary in severity. Sometimes they only involve mild itching or swelling, but in some people they can be severe and life-threatening.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • a red raised itchy skin rash (hives)
  • swelling of certain body parts, particularly the face (angioedema)
  • swelling in your throat and narrowing of your airways, which can cause breathing difficulties and wheezing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can make you feel faint and dizzy
  • feeling like something terrible is going to happen

Allergic reactions first aid treatment – What to do

Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.

If you suspect that you or somebody else is experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis you should immediately dial 999 for an ambulance.

If available, an injection of a medicine called adrenaline should be given if someone is having breathing difficulties, is feeling faint or has lost consciousness due to suspected anaphylaxis.

Some people with a previous history of anaphylaxis will have an auto-injector of adrenaline. This should be injected into their thigh muscle and held in place for 10 seconds. Instructions for how to use these auto-injectors can be found on the side of each device.

If the person is conscious, you should place them in a position where they are comfortable and able to breathe easily until the ambulance arrives. If they are feeling faint, they should be laid flat with their legs elevated if possible.

If the person is unconscious, you should place them in the recovery position (on their side, supported by one leg and one arm, with the head tilted back and the chin lifted).

If the person’s breathing or heart stops, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be performed.

Further treatment and observation will be carried out in hospital.

Causes and triggers

Anaphylaxis is the result of your body’s immune system overreacting to a harmless substance, such as food. Substances that provoke allergic reactions are known as allergens.

Anaphylaxis usually develops within minutes of contact with an allergen, though sometimes the reaction can happen hours later.

The most widely reported triggers of anaphylaxis are:

  • insect stings; particularly wasp and bee stings
  • nuts
  • other types of foods such as milk and seafood
  • certain medications such as some types of antibiotics

Preventing further episodes

If you know what has triggered anaphylaxis, it is important to take steps to try to avoid further exposure to similar triggers.

If the cause of the allergic reaction is not known, you should be referred to a specialist allergy clinic where tests can be carried out to help identify possible triggers.

You may be provided with an adrenaline auto-injector to use during any future episodes of anaphylaxis.

Further information:

Allergic reactions first aid treatment – GK First Aid Training offer a number of First Aid Courses that deal with the condition of Allergic Reactions. We offer both the 1 Day Emergency First Aid at Work and the 3 Day First Aid at Work Course. Both of these courses can be delivered directly to you in your workplace. Call us directly on 0800 774 7034 to discuss your requirements.

First aid courses London