All Children's Hospital Logo

Health Information Library

Parents > First Aid & Safety > Emergencies > Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)
Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)

Lea este articuloKids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can be frightening — a child may feel like his or her throat is closing or might faint, for example.

But the good news is that when treated properly, anaphylaxis can be managed.

Anaphylaxis isn't common, but some kids with allergies are more at risk for it. So if your child has allergies, it's important to know about it and be prepared.

Signs of Anaphylaxis

Serious Allergic ReactionsAs with other allergies, anaphylaxis can trigger symptoms in any of these four body systems:

  1. skin
  2. gastrointestinal system
  3. respiratory system
  4. cardiovascular system

An allergic reaction might be a medical emergency if it happens in two or more of these systems — for example, hives on the skin together with stomach pain.

The most common signs that someone might have anaphylaxis after exposure to an allergen are:

Timely Treatment Needed

Anaphylaxis requires immediate treatment. It can get worse very quickly. This is why doctors usually want people with life-threatening allergies to carry a medication called epinephrine. Epinephrine enters the bloodstream and works quickly against serious allergy symptoms; for example, it decreases swelling and raises blood pressure.

Epinephrine is given as an injection. This isn't as scary as it sounds, though — there's no big needle and plunger involved. Instead, doctors will prescribe an auto injector about the size of a large pen that's easy for parents — and older kids — to carry and use. If your child is prescribed epinephrine, your doctor will show you how to use it.

Your doctor also might instruct you to give your child over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, too — but they won't work alone. OTC antihistamines are never a replacement for epinephrine in life-threatening reactions.

If Your Child Has a Serious Reaction

If your child shows signs of a serious allergic reaction, call 911 or seek immediate medical care at a hospital emergency room. And if your child has a known allergy and carries epinephrine, take these steps:

Step 1: Give epinephrine right away. If you are alone with your child, administer this medication first, then call 911. If you are not alone with your child, have someone else call 911 while you administer the medication.

Step 2: Call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room. After your child receives epinephrine, go to an emergency room immediately. Sometimes a child has a second wave of symptoms (called a biphasic reaction). So the hospital will observe your child for at least 4 hours to be sure he or she is OK and provide additional treatment, if needed.

Serious allergies can be alarming. But they're a lot easier to recognize and treat now than in the past, thanks to greater awareness and the availability of epinephrine. Also, make sure that any caregivers, teachers, or coaches know about the allergy and what to do in an emergency.

Reviewed by: Sheelagh M. Stewart, RN, MPH
Date reviewed: February 2012

Related Articles
P    All About Allergies
P    Allergy Shots
T    Allergy Testing
T    Babysitting: Dealing With Allergic Reactions
P    Bug Bites and Stings
P    First Aid: Allergic Reactions
P    First Aid: Insect Stings and Bites
P    Food Allergies
K    Food Allergies
T    Food Allergies
P    Going to the Emergency Room
T    Hives (Urticaria)
K    Nut and Peanut Allergy
T    Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)
K    Word! Allergy Shots and Immunotherapy
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.

Related Information

Allergy/ Immunology
Health Library
Physician Directory
Related Pages

Additional Info

Pocket Doc Mobile App
Maps and Locations (Mobile)
Programs & Services
Employment
For Health Professionals
For Patients & Families
Contact Us
Find a Doctor
News
CME

All Children's Hospital
501 6th Ave South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 898-7451
(800) 456-4543

Use Normal Template
© 2014 All Children's Hospital - All Rights Reserved