Peanut butter sandwich and peanuts

Allergic Reactions & What to Do


Many things can cause allergic reactions, including bites, food, dust, and pollen. Allergic reactions occur when the immune system overreacts to allergens. This may cause itching, watery eyes, and runny nose in response to allergens. However, some allergic reactions can be extremely dangerous, especially if they lead to anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylaxis occurs when blood pressure drops and the tissues in the throat swell, causing severe breathing problems. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department if you are experiencing any of the following anaphylaxis symptoms.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Closing airways or tightness in the throat
  • Swollen throat, tongue, or lips
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty speaking or hoarseness
  • Abdominal pain or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety

Common life-threatening allergy triggers include peanuts, fish and shellfish, insect venom, chemicals, and certain medications. The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the allergen, but some allergens are impossible to completely avoid coming into contact with, like insects and certain food ingredients.

What To Do

If you or a loved one is stung by an insect and has an allergic reaction, take the following action.

  • Call 911 and follow the operator’s instructions.
  • If prescribed, inject epinephrine into the body.
  • If possible, remove the stinger with a pair of tweezers without squeezing the stinger.
  • Elevate the affected limb.
  • Get to an emergency department even if symptoms subside.

If you or a loved one is exposed to any other allergen that results in anaphylaxis, take the following action.

  • Call 911 and follow the operator’s instructions.
  • If prescribed, inject epinephrine into the body.
  • Remain calm and get to an emergency department.

Head to your nearest St. Luke’s Health emergency room even if you inject yourself with epinephrine. No matter how much better you feel after an injection, always visit an emergency center after every reaction. About 15% of people who experience anaphylaxis have another severe reaction within a few hours. Have a second dose of epinephrine at the ready and get cleared by medical professionals after each reaction.

Sources:
Allergies and the Immune System
Allergy Overview
Insect Stings and Allergic Reactions

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