How to Recognize and Treat Allergic Reaction Symptoms

Learn 6 simple steps in treating an anaphylactic reaction, what signs to look for, and how to use an EpiPen.

Simple Steps In Treating An Anaphylactic Reaction:

1. Do a basic risk assessment:

Most individuals with food anaphylaxis have an EpiPen they keep at home in an easy-to-reach place to find when it’s needed. Similarly, they may keep one directly in their personal belongings while at work or at school. Outside of home and school/work. What is your risk assessment? You are going on a hike where there is no cell service. You are going to a restaurant that serves high amounts of allergens in various menu items. You are going to a holiday party where alcohol may impair your ability to avoid an allergen. These are simple examples of where a basic risk assessment is useful.

2. Know what you are capable of:

Inside your anaphylaxis treatment kit, you may find different types of medications that can come in many forms, such as an injection, pill, or liquid. Whether it is Benadryl or a steroid, those are easy to administer and can be ingested yourself in some cases. But, an EpiPen or other type of epinephrine auto-injector needs to be handled with care. Everyone should receive training on how to use an EpiPen auto-injector when someone is having an allergic reaction. Click here for instructions on how to use an EpiPen from their official website. 

However, injecting a needle in your thigh in the heat of the moment is not easy to do. This is not an issue of needle “phobia”. Needle fear can be overcome if someone else is in charge of the injection. So it is very important to understand your ability to use an auto-injector of epinephrine. If the honest answer is you may not be able to use it in the heat of the moment, then here is a simple solution. Make sure you are with a person who can use an EpiPen. Many folks are able to utilize injections since so many health conditions mandate the use of needle-based medications today. All you have to do is ask.

3. The first thing to do when you have a reaction:
The worst thing to do is deny the obvious. If you are having a reaction, do not delay notifying your friend or loved one what is happening. This might be a quick text or a nudge to a friend. All you have to say is something simple like – “I have food allergies and I think I’m having a serious allergic reaction.” Once you notify your support group, move away from large groups and go near the entrance of a building preferably near a lobby. This not only gives you space but gives you the closest access to emergency medical services if needed.

4. Treat every reaction with some medication:

If you are having an allergic reaction, it is best to act. Does that mean you need to use an EpiPen for an itchy mouth? No. However, you will want to react to the itchy mouth. Perhaps that means just washing out the food product from your mouth. It could mean taking Benadryl. Most importantly, it means starting a clock.

5. When to use epinephrine:

Your symptoms need to be monitored very closely for the next 30 minutes. 

  • Put a timer on your phone. 
  • Every 3 to 4 minutes assess how you are feeling. 
  • If you feel worse by a level of measurement, it is best to use the EpiPen. 
  • If you feel the reaction is spreading to more than just an itchy mouth – this could involve the lungs, the stomach, the voice box, etc. Any of these areas of involvement means using the EpiPen.

6. After you use an EpiPen, you must see a medical provider:

Once you use an EpiPen, please do not just go home. Why? After using epinephrine, the blood vessels of the body are focused on staying contracted for several hours. However, after 4 to 6 hrs, that effect is gone. Hence, the reaction could potentially come back. So, after using an EpiPen, at the least call your physician. Better yet, go to an urgent care or ER. The medical providers there will work to assess the risk of the reaction returning and will often give you an injection of medications that last for days to assure the reaction does not return.

Remember – you have control over your risk of anaphylaxis and you have control of how you respond to a reaction. Take control!

Food Allergy Treatment
Living with food anaphylaxis is scary, but it doesn’t have to be! With a 99% success rate, the Tolerance Induction Program (TIP™) has helped over 12,000 children achieve food freedom – the ability to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, without fear of reaction. Learn more about our program to find out if it’s right for you.