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5 Ways to Prepare for an Allergy Emergency

Quick action will help if your child has a serious allergic reaction. It's smart to occasionally review the instructions your doctor gave you and run through the steps you would take in an emergency.

Here's a checklist for any parent of a child with a serious allergy:

  1. If your doctor prescribed epinephrine injectors for emergencies, make sure two of them are always with your child or with an adult who is in charge of your child — at school, at a birthday party, on vacation. Always have two auto injectors with you in case one doesn't work or you need a second dose. Work with the school to decide where to store the injectors and how your child can get them quickly, if needed. Don't leave them in the car or anywhere else where they might get too hot; temperature can affect how well epinephrine works.
  2. Know the signs of a serious reaction — such as trouble breathing, rash, swelling, vomiting, belly pain, diarrhea, and wheezing — and be ready to act quickly. You also need to use epinephrine if two or more mild symptoms happen, such as hives plus vomiting or coughing plus belly pain. Follow the instructions the doctor gave you. Teach your child and those who care for your child to do the same.
  3. Practice how to use the epinephrine injector often. Are there caps to remove? Which end rests on the skin? Where on the body do you give the injection? How do you hold the injector? Ask for a demonstration at your doctor's office. Visit the manufacturer's website to get detailed instructions. Manufacturers also may supply a trainer injector that does not actually have epinephrine in it, so you can practice all the steps safely. As your child gets older, make sure they practice too.
  4. If your child has a serious reaction, give the epinephrine injection right away. Have someone call 911 while you give the injection. If no one else is with you and your child, right after you give the injection call 911 to take your child to the nearest emergency room. Your child may have a second wave of symptoms. Take the used epinephrine injector to the hospital with you. Remember that antihistamines do not treat life-threatening symptoms and are not a replacement for epinephrine.
  5. Store the epinephrine injectors according to the manufacturer's directions. Note the expiration date and get new ones before the ones you have expire.