First Aid For Allergic Reactions: What to Do

Allergic reactions can vary and range from mild to severe. Today we will talk about what to do when an allergic reaction occurs.

What are the best practices for allergic reactions?

Short Answer: An adrenaline injector or an EpiPen

  • Always take your presribed medications with you in case of emergency
  • Avoid going to areas that can trigger your allergies 
  • Having a complete food safety plan is another practice when it comes to allergic reactions
  • Keep a track of what you are allergic to you and what type of reactions you have 

Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions happen when the immune system responds abnormally to substances that are known as allergens.

The immune system mistakes allergens for bacteria or viruses, and triggers a response. This response can lead to various symptoms and, in severe cases, reactions known as anaphylaxis. It's important to know the key factors involved:


These substances are usually harmless to most people, include a wide range of materials such as pollen from trees and plants, dust mites, certain foods like nuts and shellfish and various medications.

When individuals with allergies come into contact with specific allergens, their immune systems recognize these substances as threats and produce IgE antibodies, setting off different allergic reactions.

Histamine release

When the body encounters allergens or triggers, such as infections, immune cells release histamines as part of the body's defense mechanism.

They cause the characteristic symptoms of allergies, including itching, sneezing, runny nose, and swelling. An excessive release of histamines in response to harmless substances can lead to allergic symptoms and discomfort.


This is when the immune system encounters an allergen and begins to recognize it as a potential threat. The immune system produces specific antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) in response to the allergen.

Subsequent exposures to the same allergen can trigger a rapid and heightened allergic response. Sensitization helps explain why allergies often develop over time, with symptoms becoming more pronounced with each exposure to the allergen. 

Immune system 

 In the case of allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies certain substances, such as pollen, pet dander, or certain foods, as threats. 

Let's now take a look at the symptoms of allergic reactions:

Skin reactions 

Skin reactions are a common manifestation of allergic responses. They happen due to direct contact with allergens, such as certain plants, chemicals, stings, or through the ingestion of allergenic foods.

These reactions can include hives, which are itchy welts that appear on the skin; eczema, characterized by itchy patches of skin; and contact dermatitis, an itchy rash that develops when the skin comes into contact with an allergen. These allergic skin reactions can vary in severity, from mild irritation to more severe, persistent symptoms. 


Tbis is when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, releasing a flood of chemicals into the bloodstream, which causes a sudden drop in blood pressure, leading to a range of symptoms that can include throat tightness, rapid heartbeat and loss of consciousness.

Anaphylaxis can result from foods like peanuts and shellfish. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment with adrenaline to counteract the severe symptoms.

Respiratory reactions 

This occurs to individuals with allergies are exposed to allergens through inhalation or other forms of contact with the respiratory tract. Symptoms of respiratory reactions may include sneezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and increased mucus production. 

How to Administer First Aid for Allergic Reactions in Emergency Situations

Providing immediate first aid for allergic reactions in emergency situations is very important, particularly when an individual is undergoing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Here are the essential steps for administering first aid in such cases:

Identify the allergen

This process involves careful observation and, if possible, communication with the affected individual to pinpoint the specific substance or substance group that caused the allergic reaction.

Determining the allergen aids in immediate treatment and informs the individual about what to avoid in the future, reducing the likelihood of subsequent allergic episodes. 

Monitor vital signs

Continuous vigilance is extremely important in assessing the individual's vital signs such as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels. Regularly monitoring these vital indicators can provide the necessary insights into the progression of the allergic reaction and help guide the timing and intensity of medical interventions, such as providing respiratory support.

Administer adrenaline

Adrenaline is a hormone and medication that acts rapidly to counteract the symptoms associated with allergic reactions. It works by constricting blood vessels to raise blood pressure, relaxing airway muscles to improve breathing and reduce swelling. 

When a person experiences severe symptoms like difficulty breathing or swelling of the throat, adrenaline is injected through an EpiPen into the thigh muscle. This immediate action can often halt the progression of the allergic reaction, providing vital time for the affected individual to receive additional medical care.

Provide oxygen if available

Oxygen therapy can significantly improve oxygen levels in the blood and alleviate respiratory distress.  Oxygen may be administered through a mask with a bag-valve mask device or a nasal cannula, depending on the severity of the reaction and the equipment available. 

Do not offer food or drink 

Consuming anything by mouth can be hazardous when an individual is experiencing anaphylaxis or another severe allergic response. Swallowing food or liquid may worsen their condition, as it can lead to further constriction of the airways and worsen the respiratory distress. 

Offering food or drink can inadvertently complicate the situation and should be avoided until the person has received proper medical evaluation and treatment.

Stay with the person 

Emotional support and continuous monitoring are essential in this critical moment. The presence of a caring and attentive individual can help reassure the affected person, reduce anxiety, and keep them as calm as possible, which can be particularly challenging during a severe allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and symptoms may worsen or reoccur even after initial treatment. By remaining by their side and closely attending to their needs, you can play a crucial role in ensuring their safety and well-being until professional medical assistance arrives or their condition stabilizes.


When to Seek Medical Attention for Allergic Reactions

It is imperative to seek medical assistance when dealing with allergic reactions to guarantee accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The following are recommended instances in which you should consider seeking medical help for allergic reactions:

Worsening symptoms

Allergic reactions can escalate rapidly, particularly when it comes to anaphylaxis. Waiting or delaying medical care in such situations can be dangerous. Promptly getting professional medical assistance is crucial to ensure that the necessary treatments are provided. 

Uncertainty about allergen exposure

Allergic reactions can vary widely in their severity and presentation, and sometimes the exact cause may not be apparent. Medical professionals are equipped with the expertise and diagnostic tools to help identify potential allergens and assess the situation comprehensively. They can conduct tests, review medical history, and provide appropriate treatment and guidance to manage the allergic reaction effectively.

Severe symptoms 

If an individual experiences severe manifestations such as pronounced facial or throat swelling, a sharp drop in blood pressure, a rapid and weak pulse, it is crucial to dial emergency services immediately. Timely medical intervention, typically including the administration of adrenaline, can be vital in stabilizing the individual's condition and preventing further escalation of the reaction.

Multiple body systems affected 

Symptoms involving various bodily functions, such as gastrointestinal distress and skin hives difficulties occurring simultaneously, warrant immediate medical attention. This complex reaction suggests a systemic response to an allergen, which can lead to complications if left untreated. Seeking prompt medical care in such cases is essential to evaluate the extent of the allergic response, provide appropriate treatment, and ensure the individual's well-being.

Tips on Preventing and Managing Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis.

Efficiently preventing and handling allergic reactions is vital for those dealing with allergies. Here are some guidelines to assist in the prevention of allergic reactions:

Identify allergens

Individuals need to work with healthcare providers to pinpoint specific substances or environmental factors that trigger their allergic reactions.

This can include skin tests or blood tests to determine precise allergen sensitivities. Once identified, allergens should be avoided or minimized in the individual's surroundings.

Food allergies

People with food allergies have to be careful about reading food labels, informing restaurant staff about their allergies when dining out, and being aware of cross-contamination risks.

Be prepared for emergencies by carrying an EpiPen, as it can be a life-saver during an allergic reaction. It's also crucial for those with food allergies to educate their close contacts about their condition, enabling them to respond appropriately in case of an emergency.

Medication allergies 

Clear communication with healthcare providers about past allergic reactions, including their nature and severity is very important. Maintain an up-to-date list of medications that trigger allergic responses and share this information with all healthcare professionals involved in your care.

Be cautious when trying new medications, ask questions about potential allergens in drug formulations, and discuss alternative treatments with your healthcare provider if needed.

Let's now move on to how allergic reactions can be managed:

Alllergen-free lifestyle

This lifestyle shift involves making deliberate choices to create environments and dietary practices that minimize allergen exposure. 

Careful meal planning, ingredient scrutiny, and preparing allergen-free alternatives are examples. In the home environment, measures like thorough cleaning, using allergen-free products, and creating allergen-free zones can help reduce the risk of accidental exposure.

Educate others

Sharing information about your allergies, their symptoms, and the potential severity of reactions helps create awareness and understanding among your friends, family, colleagues, and caregivers.

This way, they will take appropriate precautions, especially when preparing or offering food, and respond swiftly in case of an allergic emergency.

Immediate action

If you or someone nearby experiences symptoms like difficulty breathing, swelling or hives, do not hesitate. Administer adrenaline if available, call emergency services immediately, and inform them of the allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis can progress rapidly, potentially becoming life-threatening within minutes.Stay with the affected person, monitor their vital signs, and be prepared to administer a second dose of adrenaline if necessary.

Carry medication 

Carrying prescribed medications such as adrenaline through EpiPens is a lifeline in case of an allergic reaction. Your family, and close contacts should be well-informed about how to use these medications correctly. Having over-the-counter antihistamines on hand can help with milder allergic symptoms. Make sure that you check the expiration dates of these medications and replenish them as needed.

You can read more about dealing with allergic reactions when you click here.

Read more about the rules guiding the use of first aid in another article written by us here


Related Questions

How severe can allergic reactions be if not treated immediately?

Allergic reactions can vary widely in severity, and the severity of an allergic reaction depends on the individual's sensitivity to the allergen, the amount of allergen exposure, and the specific allergen involved. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur rapidly after exposure to an allergen. Without prompt treatment, anaphylaxis can be fatal. 

If an individual is known to have severe allergies or a history of anaphylaxis, they should carry an Epi-Pen and know how to use it. Even mild or moderate allergic reactions should be taken seriously.

How long does it take for allergic reactions to start?

Allergic reactions can start within seconds to hours after exposure to an allergen. In some cases, allergic reactions may have a delayed onset and may not become apparent until several hours after exposure. It's important to note that the timing of allergic reactions can be highly individualized, and not everyone will react to allergens in the same way or on the same timescale. Additionally, the severity of the reaction can vary from person to person and exposure to exposure.


When it comes to allergic reactions, there are different ways to prevent and manage them.

We hope you find this information helpful.


Answer a few simple questions and we'll suggest a First Aid KIT to suit your needs!