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Allergic reaction: what helps in an emergency?

What is an allergic reaction?

An allergic reaction always occurs when the immune system classifies an actually harmless substance as dangerous and acts against it. Depending on the cause, the allergy can trigger symptoms such as runny nose or sneezing attacks. If the allergic reaction is local, the health is not particularly dramatic. However, if multiple organs are affected by the immune system, life-threatening allergic shock can occur. In this case, the emergency doctor must be informed immediately.

Which allergens can trigger a severe allergic reaction?

For example, while the widespread hay fever or dust mites cause annoying but rather harmless symptoms, there are also Allergies where a strong allergic reaction is likely. These include:

  • Insect venom allergy
  • Food allergy
  • Drug allergy

Often contact with the smallest amounts of the respective allergen is enough, to cause severe discomfort.

What are the symptoms of allergic shock?

Various symptoms can occur in response to an allergy. Allergens often trigger the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the skin
  • sniff or stuffy nose
  • Red, burning eyes
  • General itching

It is always dangerous if the symptoms become significantly stronger within a short time. As a result, blood pressure can drop sharply, which means that vital organs are no longer optimally supplied – this leads to an allergic shock.

But how do I know how severe the allergic reaction is?

Using the example of an insect venom allergy, the following complaints can be used to classify how serious the reaction to the allergy is:

  • Slight local reaction: After a wasp or bee sting, for example, the swelling is less than ten centimeters. This is uncomfortable, but the complaints usually go away the next day.
  • Increased local response: Depending on the location of the stitch, the swelling in allergy sufferers can affect the entire arm or leg and can be very painful. The swelling persists for several days, in some cases the lymph glands or mucous membranes swell and / or a fever develops. A stab in the face is dangerous – depending on the severity of the swelling, the airways can be narrowed. A prompt visit to the doctor makes sense.
  • Reaction affects the whole body: The symptoms appear all over the body a few minutes after the sting. This can cause reddening of the skin and itching, the eyes and lips can swell. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath indicate a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and circulatory failure. The allergic shock can occur – therefore the emergency doctor should be contacted immediately.

Generally, allergic reactions on the whole body are divided into four degrees of severity, to help you decide whether there is an emergency or not:

  • Slight general reaction: Skin reactions all over the body, e.g. B. redness, itching, swelling of the mucous membranes, nausea, headache
  • Pronounced general reaction: Blood pressure drops slightly, shortness of breath occurs, urge to urinate and stool becomes stronger
  • Threatening general reaction: Airways swell and narrow, general shock occurs, blood pressure drops sharply, circulatory problems begin
  • Organ failure: Cardiac arrest

First aid for allergic shock

If a strong allergic reaction occurs, it is not only bad for the allergy sufferer, but also for the people who witness the incident. It is now important to act quickly: Anyone who observes a severe allergic reaction, such as shortness of breath or dizziness, should first call the emergency doctor. Then it is time to provide first aid. Depending on whether the person concerned is conscious or unconscious, other steps are necessary. The basic principle is: stay calm and also calm the person concerned by calmly speaking.

1. The person concerned is conscious and approachable

  • Remove the trigger of the reaction (e.g. bee sting).
  • Make sure that the patient gets enough air. If in doubt, open tight clothing to make breathing easier and encourage the patient to breathe calmly and deeply. This also helps against panic.
  • Encourage those affected to sit with their upper bodies raised.
  • If there is swelling on the body, wrap some ice in a cotton cloth and place it on the affected area. Sucking ice cubes helps against swelling in the throat or mouth.
  • If the patient has an emergency allergy medication with them, administer it.

2. The person concerned loses consciousness or is already passed out

  • Check awareness by gently shaking and speaking.
  • Call for help / alert other people to the emergency.
  • Check breathing: To do this, first stretch the head, then lean with the cheek over the patient's lips. If he breathes, you can feel it as a slight warm air flow. You can turn your face towards your chest and check whether it rises and falls.
  • If the patient breathes, they are put in a stable side position and the breathing is checked again and again until the emergency doctor arrives on site.
  • If the patient is not breathing, resuscitation measures must be initiated immediately: The cardiac massage is carried out 30 times alternating with two breaths, until breathing is restored or the emergency doctor takes over.

It is important to provide the emergency doctor with all possible information that can play a role in the rescue. These include, for example:

  • What allergy is there?
  • How exactly was the allergic reaction triggered?
  • What symptoms did you experience?

Basically: Dealing properly with allergies can save lives – that's why it's important to take complaints seriously.

Reading tips: Would you like more information about allergies? Here you can find out everything about pollen allergy, allergic asthma and what hay fever symptoms are.

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