Many people have experienced symptoms of an allergy, such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes or skin, rashes, and asthma. An allergy is when your immune system is extra sensitive to a certain substance, such as pollen, dust mites, mold, pets, insects, foods or medications.

While most allergies aren't serious and can be easily controlled with medication, some allergy attacks can be life threatening. A severe allergic reaction is called “anaphylaxis.” A severe allergy attack is most likely to be related to food such as milk, wheat, eggs or nuts, insect stings of wasps or bees, or medication.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • swelling of the face, lips or throat
  • hives
  • breathing problems
  • shock

Many people who are aware of their severe allergies carry a medication called Epinephrine, which is injected into the muscle through an “auto injector” which is easy to use.  It acts quickly on the body to raise the blood pressure, stimulate the heart, and improve swelling and breathing.

First Aid for Anaphylaxis

  1. Ask someone to call for medical help or call 911 if you're alone.
  2. Ask the person whether he carries an epinephrine injector, and if so, assist him to use it according to label directions.
  3. Help the person to remain calm and lie quietly, with legs elevated. If vomiting, turn on his or her side to prevent choking. Do not give anything to drink.
  4. If the person becomes unconscious and stops breathing, begin CPR and continue until medical help arrives.

It's important to get medical treatment for an allergy attack, even if the person starts to improve. Many times symptoms can improve, then worsen quickly after a period of time. Medical care is necessary to prevent recurrence of the attack.