Spotting and Treating an Allergic Reaction

Close up image of a little boy’s body suffering urticaria.Allergies are on the increase, with one in three Australians estimated to have one or more. Foods are the most common substances to which people are allergic, with nuts, eggs, and dairy products high on the list of allergens (substances which cause an allergic reaction). In the most severe allergic reactions, your child could suffer breathing problems and the result could be fatal. So knowing the signs of allergy – and how to treat a child suffering an allergic reaction – is a vital skill for a parent.

What is an allergy?

An allergic reaction occurs when a substance which the body considers to be a foreign invader enters the body. The body produces antibodies which battle against the invading substance, and various symptoms become visible very quickly. Commonly, such allergies are to food; but while the symptoms of an allergy and food intolerance to food may be similar, an allergic reaction happens almost immediately, is far more severe in nature, and has to be treated differently.

Signs of an allergic reaction

When the allergen and its antibody come into contact with each other, the body releases a number of other substances. One of these is histamine, and this causes inflammation. In turn, this inflammation causes a number of visible signs, which can appear seconds after coming into contact with, eating, or drinking, a substance to which the child is allergic. Typical allergic reactions include:

  • Swelling
  • Hives or a skin rash
  • Tingling of the lips and mouth
  • Stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea

In the worst cases, the throat can close, the tongue swell, and breathing become severely affected, with the worst reaction leading to anaphylaxis.

What to do

How you treat an allergic reaction depends upon its severity. However severe, it’s important to stay calm, reassure your child, and remove the offending food or sting. You should then call for help, and follow the DRSABC procedures if you need to and should the symptoms become life-threatening (but remember, stay calm).

Where allergies are known to exist, it may be that a child has an adrenaline auto-injector. Make sure you know how to administer (take a few seconds to read the instructions, for example), and always inject in the thigh. There’s no need to remove clothing to do this, but the needle must stay inserted for ten seconds.

In your treatment of allergies and administering an adrenaline auto injector, always err on the side of caution: allergic reactions can be fatal, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.