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Three-Step Allergy Emergency Action Plan


Denise Mann, MS

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Group Of Friends Having Dinner Party At Home

If you or someone you love has serious allergies, you know that potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions can come on quickly – sometimes with little warning even with the most diligent prevention.

Anaphylaxis is the medical name for a severe, full-body allergic reaction. Common causes may include foods (especially peanuts), medications, insect stings and latex. Symptoms can present immediately after exposure to the allergen or hours later. Anaphylaxis may occur in one in 50 Americans during the course of their lifetime, and this may be an underestimate, according to a study in the Feb. 2014 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Anaphylaxis can be frightening, but being prepared will help you feel empowered to prevent a dangerous allergic reaction. Do you know all the facts?

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 6, 2015

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

You are not powerless.

This three-step Allergy Emergency Action Plan can save your life or that of your child. It even has an easy-to-remember acronym – A, B, C.

Step 1. Act Fast

A is for act fast. Early symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction may be mild: a runny nose, a skin rash or a "strange feeling," but these can quickly morph into more troubling ones, including breathing difficulty, hives, throat tightness, nausea and vomiting or even cardiac arrest. Know the signs and act fast.

Step 2. Be Prepared

B is for be prepared to act fast. If you or someone you love is experiencing a serious allergy attack, early treatment with epinephrine can be a lifesaver.  Always carry epinephrine for emergencies. There is no exception to this rule.  Your doctor can prescribe kits, which contain fast-acting, self-administered auto-injectors and train you on how to use them. This is usually done by pressing the auto-injector into the thigh, and  it can be administered through clothing. Two injections may be necessary to control anaphylactic symptoms.

If your child has a serious allergy, the school nurse, teachers and even bus monitors should all have access to epinephrine and knowledge of how to administer it during a crisis.

Other tips include loosening tight clothing and covering the person with a blanket. If there's vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn the person on his or her side to avoid choking.

Step 3. Call for Back Up

C is for calling for help. Administer the epinephrine first, and dial 911 or get to the nearest emergency facility as soon as you notice any of the signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis. Call 911 before reaching out to any emergency contacts. Once the crisis is over, check in with your allergist to make sure you are doing all that you can to prevent future serious allergic reactions.

The A, B, C should be done in the face of an emergency, but other steps in the plan should be in place in advance.

They include:

Speaking up

Let your colleagues, friends and others know about your allergies. Consider wearing emergency medical bracelets or necklaces that identify you and your allergies as well. Children can wear stickers on their clothing stating their name and allergy. This can help prevent allergic reactions and also helps onlookers eliminate guesswork if one should occur. Timing is critical. The sooner the life-saving epinephrine is administered, the greater the chances of survival.

Avoiding triggers

Steering clear of your allergens is the best way to prevent anaphylaxis. It's also not always possible, which is why you need an emergency plan. Still, make sure you read all food labels carefully and don't be shy about asking questions in restaurants. Your child's school, camp or daycare should also know about his or her allergies and have information about whether your child needs to sit at a special table during lunch or snack time. Have this conversation every year. Some schools are nut-free, but many are not.

Checking in with your allergist

Allergies change. Some grow more serious with exposure, while others can be outgrown. Make sure you are in contact with your allergist on a regular basis about ongoing treatment and to make sure you are doing all that you can for your health.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Mar 9, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Anaphylaxis. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
  2. Wood RA, et al. Anaphylaxis in America: The prevalence and characteristics of anaphylaxis in the United States. Feb. 2014. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology In press.
  3. First Aid: Anaphylaxis. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Anaphylaxis. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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