Learn the signs of a severe allergic reaction and when it is time to go to the hospital
Allergic reactions vary in severity from person to person. What may show up as a mild reaction in one person could be life-threatening to the next, even if they are exposed to the same amount of the allergen. If you or a loved one has a known allergy or even an unknown allergy, it is crucial to know the first signs of a severe reaction.
The steps taken during an allergic reaction can be the difference between life and death. Allergies are common chronic conditions in both adults and children. According to the CDC, more than 25% of the US population have at least one allergy. Allergies range on a spectrum – even though two people may be allergic to the same thing, their reaction to exposure may be different and appear different at the time of exposure.
The most prevalent allergies people have are seasonal, food, and skin allergies. Anyone can be allergic to anything. Yes, anything, including water or things you deem a basic necessity. Here are some quick facts on allergies in the US:
- Almost 6% of adults have a food allergy
- 25% of adults have seasonal allergies
- One in five children has seasonal allergies
- Children 6-11 years old are more likely to suffer from eczema
The fact that allergies are so common has often left many to take symptoms or prevention too lightly. Life-threatening allergic reactions can happen without warning and may occur when you do something you can usually tolerate.
What is Anaphylaxis?
The medical term for a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction is anaphylaxis or anaphylaxis shock. This occurs when your body goes into shock upon exposure to an allergen due to a flood of chemicals released by the immune system to fight off the allergen. This reaction can happen quickly, in seconds, or take minutes to show.
People with a known allergy usually use over-the-counter medicine like Benadryl or an allergy shot to minimize the presence of typical allergy symptoms – runny nose, sneezing, itching, irritated eyes, coughing, and more – and see a decrease within a few hours or days.
However, it is essential to note that the body may act differently at each time of exposure. If a person is experiencing more severe symptoms, they must immediately seek medical attention.
Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction
If any of the following symptoms occur, you or a loved one may be experiencing a severe allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can feature multiple symptoms at once.
- Swelling of lips and tongue–threatening throat closure
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- A weak or rapid pulse
- Severe skin rash
- Dizziness or fainting
- Intense vomiting or diarrhea
- Painful abdominal cramps
What to do When Experiencing a Severe Allergic Reaction
If any of the above severe symptoms show in reaction to exposure to an allergen, you must go to the hospital. Severe allergic reactions are an urgent situation where minutes count. Those that experience anaphylactic shock may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and narrowing of the airways, seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, and even death.
If you can access an epinephrine injector or EpiPen, use it immediately. Even if an EpiPen is used, a trip to the emergency room is still recommended for observation by medical professionals. In severe allergic reactions, symptoms are known to reoccur hours later after they subdue.
Get 24/7 Emergency Care
It’s crucial to act quickly when you or a loved one are experiencing an allergic reaction. Our team of expert physicians at Tucson ER & Hospital is designed to deliver advanced medical care and premier observational treatment. With the convenience and comfortability of our facility, our community can expect the best in care. Skip the wait of the traditional waiting room and experience quick and accurate emergency room care 24 hours, 365 days a year.
Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Tucson ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.