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First Aid: Allergic Reactions

Allergies are becoming more and more common, whether it’s to bee stings, nuts, gluten, or pollen. Most of them are mild and can be treated very simply. Others, however, can seem mild at first but then become severe within minutes.

Those with severe allergic reactions will often carry around an epinephrine pen with them in case. The pen contains a small amount of medicine that must be injected to the victim in order to combat the reaction. The injection is given on the side of the thigh.

It’s important to know what to do in case you are near someone who has a reaction. First, you must look for signs of a mild or severe reaction. A mild reaction can be characterized by:

– stuffy nose, sneezing, and/or itching around the eyes

– itching of the skin

-raised, red rash on the skin (also known as hives)

You must continue to monitor the victim since a mild reaction has the potential to turn severe. A severe reaction is characterize by:

– difficulty breathing

– swelling of the tongue and face


Firstly, make sure the scene is safe. Call for help or get someone to call 911. If the person is able to respond, ask if they have an epinephrine pen. Help them retrieve it and ask them if they are able to use it. If they cannot, you must administer the injection. Take off the safety cap and follow the instructions given on the pen. Hold it in your fist without touching either end, because the needle comes out of one end. Push the needle hard against the side of the person’s thigh, halfway between the hip and the knee. The pen is able to go through clothing. Hold it in place for about 10 seconds; remove it by pulling it straight out. Rub the injection spot for 10 seconds, then dispose of it properly. Continue to monitor the victim; if they stop responding, give them CPR.

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