First Aid: Allergic Reactions

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First Aid

Allergic reactions can be triggered by foods, medications, insect stings, pollen, or other substances. Although most allergic reactions aren't serious, severe reactions can be life threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms


  • itchiness
  • skin redness
  • slight swelling
  • stuffy, runny nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • red bumps (hives) anywhere on the body


  • swelling of the mouth or tongue
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • abdominal (belly) pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • dizziness or fainting

What to Do

  • Contact a doctor if your child has an allergic reaction that is more than mild or concerns you.
  • If the symptoms are mild, give an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine.
  • If the symptoms are severe and you have injectable epinephrine (EpiPen), immediately use it as directed and call for emergency medical help.

Think Prevention!

Have kids avoid substances that are known to trigger an allergic reaction. Keep an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine available.

If your child has a severe allergy, be sure doctor-prescribed injectable epinephrine is kept nearby at all times, and that you, your child (if old enough), and anyone who cares for your child know how to use it.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014

Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.
Web SiteAAAAI Just for Kids This Just for Kids page from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology offers lots of fun activities to help you learn about managing your allergies and asthma.
Web SiteThe Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) The FAAN mession is to raise public awareness, provide advocacy and education and to advance research on behavior for all of those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.
Web SiteAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (Espanol)

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Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) Kids with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The good news is it can be prevented and treated.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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