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Allergic Reaction

Intro

Because allergic reactions can progress and worsen in minutes, medical attention is always recommended for all but the most minor and localized symptoms

If the symptoms of your reaction get worse over a few days, or if they do not get better with recommended treatment and removal of the allergen, call your health care provider.

Tell your health care provider if you have any allergic symptoms after using a drug or other treatment he or she prescribed for you (Drug Allergy).

Allergic reactions can be dangerous. Sudden, severe, widespread reactions require emergency evaluation by a medical professional. Call an ambulance if you or someone around you has any of the following with an allergic reaction:

  • Sudden, severe, rapidly worsening symptoms
  • Exposure to an allergen that previously caused severe or bad reactions
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Wheezing, chest tightness, loud breathing, or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, sweating, nausea, or vomiting
  • Widespread rash
  • Collapse or unconsciousness

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Self-Care at Home

Avoid triggers! If you know you have an allergic reaction to peanuts, for example, do not eat them. Go out of your way to avoid foods prepared with or around peanuts (Food Allergy).

Self-care at home is not enough in severe reactions. A severe reaction is a medical emergency

  • Do not attempt to treat or "wait out" severe reactions at home. Go immediately to a hospital emergency department
  • If no one is available to drive you right away, call 911 for emergency medical transport. For more information on what to do in a severe reaction, see Anaphylaxis.

Small reactions with mild symptoms usually respond to nonprescription allergy medications.

  • An oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Caution – These may make you too drowsy to drive or operate machinery safely. They can affect concentration and interfere with children's learning in school. These medications should be taken for only a few days. For rashes, an anti-inflammatory steroid cream such as hydrocortisone

For small, localized skin reactions, try cold, wet cloths or ice. Try applying a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel.

Prevention

Most people learn to recognize their allergy triggers; they also learn to avoid them.

An allergy specialist (allergist) may be able to help you identify your triggers. Several different types of allergy tests are used to identify triggers.

  • Skin testing is the most widely used and the most helpful. There are several different methods, but all involve exposing the skin to small amounts of various substances and observing the reactions over time.
  • Blood tests (RAST) generally identify IgE antibodies to specific antigens. Other tests involve eliminating certain allergens from your environment and then re-introducing them to see if a reaction occurs.

People with a history of serious or anaphylactic reactions may be prescribed an auto-injector, sometimes called a bee-sting kit. This contains a premeasured dose of epinephrine (EpiPen is one brand name). You carry this with you and inject yourself with medication immediately if you are exposed to a substance that causes you to have a severe allergic reaction

There is some evidence that breast-fed infants are less likely to have allergies than bottle-fed infants.

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