When the immune system reacts to a foreign body, which is normally harmless to most people, this is called an allergy. It is described as a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. It is common for people to experience allergic reactions, usually after getting in contact with an allergen. While most allergic reactions are mild, some can be serious and even fatal. Some are limited in one area of the body or it can affect the whole body.
These allergens are inhaled, ingested, injected or come in direct contact with the skin. Substances that often cause reactions are food, insect stings (bees, wasps, and fire ants), pollen, dust mites, mild spores, pet dander or even medicines. Food allergies are quite common; however, the eight most common food allergens are peanuts, milk, fish, crustaceans, egg, soybeans, tree nuts and sesame seeds (Food Authority 2013).
When one is experiencing mild allergy symptoms such as itching, nasal congestion, rashes, hives and watery eyes, over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines may be given. Cold compresses or OTC hydrocortisone cream can be applied to itchy allergic rashes. Meanwhile, OTC decongestants may be given for stuffy nose. Observe for signs of increasing distress. If you have your previous CPR and first aid certificate, you have to apply for standard first aid re-certification to validate your authority to conduct first aid treatment.
However, for severe allergic reactions, also called anaphylaxis, the person’s airway, breathing and circulation must be checked. Signs of severe allergic reaction include swelling of the face, eyes, lips or throat leading to a very hoarse or whispered voice, producing coarse sounds when breathing in air, a weak and rapid pulse, nausea and even unconsciousness. Anaphylaxis can lead to an abrupt drop in blood pressure and trouble breathing. Commence rescue breathing and CPR if necessary. Immediately call for medical help. Make calm and comfort the person. If the allergic reaction is due to a bee sting, scrape the stinger off the skin using something secure like a fingernail. Avoid using tweezers as more venom is released when the stinger is squeezed. If emergency allergy medication is available, assist the person in taking in or injecting the medication. Usually, the autoinjector is pressed against the thigh. Avoid ingesting oral medication if there is difficulty in breathing. You can also try to look for other first aid courses online if you wish to enroll.
Take the necessary precaution to avoid shock. Loosen any tight clothing. Have the person lie down flat on his/ her back, while elevating his/ her feet about one foot. Cover him/ her with a blanket. Although if there is discomfort or suspected injury in the head, neck, back or leg, do not place the person in the aforementioned position. Emergency treatment is still required even after symptoms to improve as symptoms may reappear.
Here is a YouTube video about Children First Aid: Allergic Reaction[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt_MtPmlTPc” width=”600″ height=”400″]
If signs of anaphylaxis are initially observed, it is strongly encouraged to act right away rather than to wait for the symptoms to get better. As previously mentioned, severe allergic reactions may lead to death, sometimes within half an hour of first signs. In order to avoid future allergic reactions, determine the allergen to which the body is having hypersensitivity reaction to.
The instructions mentioned above does not substitute for knowledge and depth brought by first aid training courses offered by various institutions all over the country.[note color=”#3088bd”]Standard First Aid Training reference for this article:[/note]
Food Authority [Internet]. 2013. Allergy and intolerance. New South Wales (AU): Food Authority; [cited 2013 Jun 07].