People can have different allergic reactions with different severities and symptoms ranging from mild itching to life-threatening. Knowing how to safely identify and handle an allergic reaction can help people feel better or even save a life.

What Happens And Why

An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s defense mechanism overreacts as a foreign substance is introduced. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can include breathing problems, swelling body parts, aching body parts, itchiness, and a running nose among others.

Some of the common substances known to trigger severe allergies in some people include:

  • Different kinds of proteins (meats and eggs)
  • Pollen extracts
  • Anti-serum (Rabies. Insect venom, Tetanus, and Snake venom)
  • Hormones
  • Certain Foods and fruits (such as wheat, strawberries, and chocolates)
  • Enzymes

Typical Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can appear anywhere on the body. Some of the common ones include:

  • Skin: Itchiness, inflammation of the skin over the part bitten or stung, flushing, redness, and urticaria (itchy, large irregular, red, inflamed patches)
  • Eyes: Watering, itchiness, redness, and swelling
  • Respiratory Tract: A running nose, inability to talk, chocking, compression in the chest, coughing, suffocation, heaviness in the throat, sneezing, and breathlessness
  • Gastro-intestinal: Aching throat, indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting
  • General: In most cases, a person has an anaphylactic shock that manifests in different ways such as dizziness, nausea, sudden sneezing, panic, swelling of the body and face, suffocation, restlessness, and unconsciousness. The symptoms can occur rapidly one after the other which can cause death in a few minute after the onset of the allergic reaction.

The above symptoms may manifest differently in different people. Sometimes it could be one or several of them of only one system, or a mix of all of them.

Knowing the source or the trigger of the allergic reaction is the best approach to dealing with individual allergies. Below are some tips to help you understand how to handle some common allergic reactions.

  1. Animals

Some people can develop an allergic reaction to the granular scales and dust of dried animal hairs or skin (due to the alien protein in their body). For instance, some folks have reactions such as asthma (breathing problems) and rhinitis (watering of the nose) when they come into contact with cats and these reactions can sometimes be uncomfortable and mildly severe. An animal’s saliva can as well trigger a violent reaction in some people.

The best way of dealing with such emergencies is to remove the animal from the presence of the affected person and then take him or her to an open area with fresh air to help them with breathing and to clear that allergens. Remove any animal skin or hairs from the clothes and around the house.

In the case of contact with animal saliva, wash the affected area with soap and water. If the allergy worsens and the affected person is having difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention immediately.

  1. Insects

Some folks develop severe allergic reactions when bitten or stung by insects such as hornets, bees, ants, yellow jackets, and wasps. The venom may be mild but their body is susceptible to such a foreign substance, hence the violent reactions that may include uterine cramps, nausea, inflammation, urticaria, breathing problems, skin turning blue due to lack of oxygen, bronchospasm, low blood pressure, swelling of the face and glottis, and even death in severe cases.

Note – anyone can develop a severe reaction when bitten by an insect in the mouth or throat.

Bees leave their stingers in the skin after they sting, something that ants and wasps do not do. You should use a pair of tweezers to remove the stinger. If you don’t have a tweezer, then you should use a sharp knife, razor, or needle to scrape off the sting. Avoid scratching the affected area to minimize the rate at which the venom spreads.

Apply a steroid or antihistamine cream over the affected areas; calamine lotion can also help remedy the emergency. If you do not have these, then just use cold water or put some ice on the stung area.

If the patient has difficulty breathing after an insect sting and the situation seems to be getting worse get medical attention immediately.

Large caterpillars such as the Gypsy Moth, can cause violent reactions because of the toxic chemical makeup in their hairs if contact with skin is made. Consider using some cellophane or similar tape to remove the insect’s hairs if possible.

Alternatively, you can opt to brush off the hairs and ensure you get all the hairs. Even a single hair left behind can cause some serious damage.

Wash the affect areas with plenty of cold water and then apply ice. If ice is not available, you can apply some anti-itch cream with hydrocortisone.

Remember to see a doctor for a complete medical assessment if the reaction is severe or the symptoms don’t improve quickly.

  1. Foods

Cases of nasty allergic reactions triggered by the foods we eat are not uncommon. Some people do not cope well with foods such as milk, eggs, seafood, peanuts, sesame (til), nuts, soya beans, chamomile tea and other foods that contain protein. Some even react to metabisulfites found in Chinese cuisine and beers.

Cases of food allergies are often noted in children, though some adults will have severe reactions. The reactions are classified as follows:

  • Early Reactions (Less than two hours):

Vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis, abdominal pain, angioedema, asthma, rhinitis, urticaria, and anaphylaxis

  • Late Reactions (More than two hours):

Diarrhea, asthma, vomiting, urticaria, gastrointestinal bleeding/anemia, malabsorption, alveolitis, growth retardation, protein-losing enteropathy, and inflamed lungs can occur in a severe food allergic reaction.

12-36 hours after the onset of the allergic symptoms, the patient can develop severe vomiting and diarrhea. Infants, small children and at-risk senior citizens can be dehydrated rapidly so please seek medical attention for help if severe symptoms persist.

In the case of abdominal pains, drinking plenty of water and placing a hot-water bottle over the stomach helps. Mint juice and home are an effective remedy for the pain. As for urticaria, applying calamine lotion or cold water can provide some relief.

Also, placing a finger on an area located just below the nostrils can help control the sporadic sneezing. Rush the patient to the hospital if you start noticing any swellings of the feet, face, and hands.

  1. Drugs (Over The Counter)

Some people can have moderate allergies when they use over-the-counter drugs and products. Some of the signs of allergies include abdominal pain, watering eyes, asthma, urticaria, itchy skin, rhinitis, burning sensation in the stomach, vomiting, headaches, dark or white skin patches, and loose bowels.

The use of these over the counter products can at times cause swelling of the skin, redness, and rashes.

At times, asthmatics will develop further complications as the condition is exacerbated by the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin, Ibuprofen, Mefenamic Acid, and Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin).

Other patients can develop rhinitis, and debilitating asthma as the use of the anti-inflammatory medicines triggers an obstruction of the lower and upper breathing tracts that can quickly become a life-threatening issue.

When helping the patient with a sever reaction to an over-the-counter medication, get medical attention immediately! Let the doctor know which drug it is so that the right antidote can be offered to the patient.

In the case of itchiness or pruritus, a cold bath with an unscented bath oils and massage oil can offer some relief. Wearing loose-fitting cotton clothes and avoiding high temperatures also helps.


As always, if any of the allergic reactions are severe, seek medical attention immediately. Breathing problems, uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea, severe headaches or unusual rashes should be seen by a doctor ASAP.


(c) Can Stock Photo / Ulianna19970

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