Allergic reactions are quite diverse, from mild seasonal allergies to severe allergies in the form of reactions that endanger life safety. A person can be allergic to various things, as well as food, drugs, and immune therapy. Milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are the main types of food allergens in general. Knowing the right response to treat allergies, both mild and severe, is necessary to reduce the discomfort caused by allergies, and maybe even save lives.
Part 1 of 4: Coping With Mild Allergic Reactions
Step 1. Watch out for allergy symptoms
Chances are, you only found out about allergies after experiencing an unexpected allergic reaction. If you've never had a reaction like this before, you might have a hard time recognizing it. However, learning the signs to watch out for will help you determine the right steps to save yourself. The following symptoms are considered mild and do not require emergency medical attention. However, mild symptoms can progress to more serious reactions, so monitor your condition for at least 1 hour after these symptoms occur.
- Sneezing and mild cough
- Watery, itchy and red eyes
- Runny nose
- Itching or redness of the skin, which often develops into urticaria (hives). Urticaria is skin that is red, itchy, and swollen. They vary in size from small bumps to large welts several centimeters in diameter.
Step 2. Use over-the-counter antihistamines
For a mild reaction that doesn't get worse, usually all you need is an antihistamine. There are many different types of antihistamines to choose from, and you should always keep some at home to prepare for allergies. Always use the medicine as directed on the package.
- Benadryl. This drug is most often recommended to treat urticaria reactions because the effect is fast. This medication can be taken with or without food, and you should drink a full glass of water while taking it. Do not take more than 300 mg of this medication within 24 hours or you risk an overdose. Note that Benadryl usually causes drowsiness, so be careful when driving or operating machinery. If you feel sleepy, stop the activity.
- Claritin. Although effective in treating urticaria, it is usually used to treat seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis. Claritin can be taken with or without food. Usually, this drug does not cause drowsiness, but side effects are still possible, so pay attention to your condition before driving or operating machinery. Generally Claritin should be taken 1 time a day.
- Incidal. The usual dose is 5-10 mg daily, with or without food. Possible side effects are confusion or loss of consciousness, so be careful when driving while using Incidal.
- Telfast. This medicine should usually be taken on an empty stomach, at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating. You should only drink water with Telfast as this medicine may interact with fruit juices. Like other antihistamines, Telfast can cause drowsiness.
- The drugs above are also available in prescription drug dosage options.
- Talk to your doctor to choose the best medication for you. Some people have allergies or are sensitive to certain ingredients, so make sure the medication you are taking is safe.
Step 3. Treat urticaria and itching of the skin with an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
Hydrocortisone can help reduce swelling and itching caused by urticaria. There are a number of branded and generic creams containing hydrocortisone available at pharmacies. Check the label on the medicine package to make sure the anti-itch cream you buy does contain hydrocortisone.
- Hydrocortisone cream is also available in prescription drug dosage options. If over-the-counter creams don't relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor for a prescription for a stronger dose of medication.
- You can also apply a cold towel to the skin with urticaria if you don't have hydrocortisone cream.
Step 4. Monitor your symptoms for a few hours after the allergic reaction begins
An allergic reaction can start from 5 minutes to 1 hour after you are exposed to the triggering material. Mild allergy symptoms can develop into a more serious reaction. If you experience shortness of breath, itching in your mouth and throat, or difficulty breathing, call the emergency department immediately. If swelling is blocking your airway, you could be asphyxiated within minutes.
Step 5. Follow up by visiting an allergy specialist
After your allergic reaction subsides, schedule an appointment with an allergist. An allergist will examine you to find out what triggers your allergies and prescribe medication, or administer immune therapy to control your symptoms.
Part 2 of 4: Coping With Severe Allergic Reactions
Step 1. Be aware of the risk of anaphylaxis
Allergic reactions can be so severe that they pose a safety hazard because they affect breathing and blood circulation. This condition is called anaphylaxis, and is considered by the Red Cross to be an emergency that must be treated before seeking help because of the possibility that this reaction can develop and worsen.
If several people are helping, ask one of them to call the emergency department while you deal with the possibility of anaphylaxis, as described below. But if not, and you see the signs of serious symptoms below, do not delay treatment any longer
Step 2. Watch for more serious symptoms
Depending on your allergy, the reaction may start with mild symptoms that develop gradually, or the symptoms may start almost immediately. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you are experiencing anaphylaxis which must be treated immediately.
Serious symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, drop in blood pressure, weak pulse, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness
Step 3. Use an EpiPen if you have one
The EpiPen is an epinephrine syringe and is used to treat anaphylaxis.
- Take the EpiPen and hold it tightly in the center while pointing the orange tip down.
- Remove the cover, which is usually blue.
- Place the tip of the orange to the outer thigh. There's no need to take off your pants as the needles will pierce your clothes.
- Firmly press the tip of the orange into your foot. This pressure will release the needle that injects the epinephrine.
- Hold the injection for 10 seconds to ensure that the entire dose of epinephrine enters the body.
- Remove the EpiPen and carry it with you so medical personnel will know the dose of epinephrine you have entered.
- Massage the injection site for 10 seconds to spread the medicine.
- In an emergency, an expired EpiPen can still be used. Even so, the potential will probably be much reduced.
Step 4. Call the emergency department
Immediately call the emergency medical number in your area and be sure to tell the operator that you are having an allergic reaction. Do not try to drive alone to the emergency room, the paramedics who come will bring epinephrine to stop the allergic reaction.
You will still need to seek medical attention after injecting the epinephrine because the effects will wear off after 10 to 20 minutes, and your allergic reaction may resume. So, immediately visit the emergency department, or call 118 for further medical help
Step 5. Follow up by visiting an allergy specialist
Make an appointment with an allergy specialist after you get medical help and your reaction subsides. An allergist will examine you to find out what triggers your allergy and prescribe medication, an EpiPen, or immune therapy to identify the symptoms.
Part 3 of 4: Visiting an Allergist
Step 1. Find an allergy specialist near you
You can ask for a referral from a general practitioner. If you live in the US, you can find it on the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology lists.
Step 2. Make a note of everything you do when you have an allergic reaction
Sometimes, the cause of an allergic reaction is quite obvious. For example, if you eat peanuts, and 10 minutes later experience anaphylaxis, the trigger for your allergy is obvious. However, if you're just walking outside and have an allergic reaction, there are a variety of allergens that might cause this reaction. To help an allergist, write down everything you remember just before you had an allergic reaction, what did you eat and touch? Where are you? Do you use drugs? These questions will help the allergy specialist determine the cause of your allergy.
Step 3. Take a skin test
After talking to you and taking your medical history, your allergy specialist may ask you to undergo a skin test to determine the cause of the allergy. During this test, 1 drop of the allergen will be placed on the skin, sometimes with a small injection of the skin. After 20 minutes, if you are allergic to an ingredient, itchy red bumps will appear. This will strengthen the suspicion of an allergy specialist so that the appropriate treatment can be given by him.
Step 4. Get a blood test if necessary
Sometimes, an allergist will also ask you to have an allergy blood test. This is because you may be taking medications that can interfere with skin tests, or have certain skin conditions, or an allergist wants to confirm allergies with other tests. Blood tests are usually done in a laboratory and results can be obtained within a few days.
Step 5. Ask for an EpiPen prescription
Even if your allergic reaction is not severe, you should ask an allergist to prescribe an EpiPen. Your symptoms may be more severe next time, and having an EpiPen can easily save your life.
Part 4 of 4: Managing Allergies
Step 1. Avoid the trigger
After visiting an allergist, you will likely find out what compounds or ingredients are causing an allergic reaction. Once you figure it out, do your best to avoid it. Sometimes, it's quite simple, like if you're allergic to a certain food. Or conversely complicated, as if it was a pet that caused you allergies. Theoretically, anything can cause allergies, so there's no general avoidance of it. However, there are several types of allergies that have standard procedures to avoid them.
Step 2. Be careful when preparing food
If you are allergic to certain foods, check the labels on food packaging to make sure your allergenic ingredients are contained in the foods you buy. Sometimes common ingredients are not listed on the label, so consult an allergist or even a dietitian if you have any doubts. Always tell restaurant staff about any allergies you have to avoid cross-contamination.
Step 3. Clean the dust in the house
If you are allergic to dust, remove the carpet, especially from the bedroom. Clean the house regularly with a vacuum cleaner, and wear a dust mask while doing so. Use mite-proof sheets and pillowcases and wash them regularly in hot water.
Step 4. Limit the pet's environment
You don't have to throw away your pet even if you're allergic to it. It's just, you have to limit the environment. Keep animals away from bedrooms or rooms you use frequently. You should also remove the carpet to avoid animal hair building up there. In addition, also bathe your pet once a week to remove as much hair as possible.
Step 5. Avoid insect bites while spending time outdoors
If you are allergic to insects, don't walk barefoot in the grass, and wear long sleeves and long pants when working outside the home. In addition, also cover all food that is outside so that insects do not approach.
Step 6. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any drug allergies
Make sure all doctors who treat you know your allergies. Ask for other options for switching to the medication you are allergic to. Also make sure to wear a bracelet containing information on the drug you are allergic to so that all medical personnel can find out.
Step 7. Always carry an EpiPen with you
You should always carry an EpiPen with you whenever you travel to places where allergens may be present. Carrying an EpiPen can save your life if you have an allergic reaction while away from home.
Step 8. Use medication as directed
An allergist may recommend taking one or more medications to treat your allergy symptoms. These medications may range from over-the-counter antihistamines to prescription corticosteroids. Whatever medication your allergy specialist recommends, be sure to use it as directed in the prescription. Taking your medication as directed will help control your allergy symptoms and reduce your chances of having a severe reaction.
Step 9. Undergo immune therapy
Some allergy triggers can be treated with immune therapy or immunotherapy. This treatment will gradually make your body immune to the allergen by injecting it in low doses. Usually, these injections are given weekly for several months, then tapered off gradually. These injections are usually given for allergens such as dust, pollen, and insect venom. Ask your allergy specialist if this option is right for you.