Allergic reactions can affect different parts of the body eg eyes, mouth, nose, throat, gut, lungs, skin.
Some reactions involve only one or two parts of the body but some reactions affect lots of different parts of the body (eg swollen lips, vomiting, wheezing and sneezing), all at the same time.
There are also different kinds of allergy, which cause different kinds of reaction.
What kind of reaction you have is not always predictable – people who are allergic to nuts, for example, don’t all have the same type of reaction.
Mild Allergic Reaction
The following are symptoms of a mild reaction:
- Swelling, redness, and itch eg eyes, lips, face, ears. When it’s a food allergy, the mouth is usually affected, and you may feel tingling and itch of your lips, mouth or throat.
- The typical skin rash looks like nettle rash, and is sometimes called hives. The medical term is Urticaria. It is itchy, red and lumpy, often with white bumps in the middle that can look like blisters.
- Some people with food allergies feel sick and can vomit. This is good, because your body is trying to get rid of the problem food! But you can also get cramps and diarrhea.
- If your nose is affected you may start to sneeze and your nose may stream.
The above reactions are usually considered mild, in the sense that they are unlikely to be life threatening. But it can be really unpleasant for the affected person, and it can be very scary for other people, particularly if your face and eyes become very swollen.
Treatment of Mild Allergic Reaction
The standard treatment for any of the above symptoms is an antihistamine such as Chlorphenamine. You may find it easier to swallow a liquid antihistamine rather than a tablet, particularly if your lips or mouth are swollen. Often your symptoms will start to improve within 10 minutes, but if they do not or worsen then you may need to take another dose and/or seek further help from a doctor or NHS24.
Severe Allergic Reaction
The following are symptoms of a potentially life threatening allergic reaction (sometimes called anaphylaxis):
- Sudden or increased breathlessness, may be wheezy
- Choking, struggling to breathe
- Going pale, cold and clammy
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
Treatment of Severe Allergic Reaction
If you have an adrenaline autoinjector pen, then this would be the time to use it. You should also take an antihistamine, as above, if able. If you have a blue inhaler eg Salbutamol and you feel wheezy or chest tightness, you should use it (preferably using a spacer device eg Volumatic).
You should get help urgently. Phone 999 and say you are having a severe allergic reaction. Wait until the ambulance arrives. Even if you feel better by the time they arrive, your medicines may start to wear off quickly – this is particularly true of adrenaline. The ambulance paramedics have emergency medicines they can use.
If you feel dizzy or faint, it is best to lie down, preferably in the recovery position. If you have breathing difficulties however, you may find it better to stay sitting up.