What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system has a very sensitive response to an external trigger. Triggers might include food, an environmental irritant, or something that touches the skin.
The body responds to these substances, or allergens, by releasing chemicals that cause various symptoms.
While most allergic reactions occur shortly after contact with an allergen, some are delayed and can show up hours or even days later.
Typical symptoms of immediate allergic reaction include:
- Hives: itchy, raised, skin colored lesions with a surrounding area of redness
- Skin swelling at the point of contact
- Stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Lip, tongue, or eye swelling
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
How to Treat an Allergic Reaction
After an allergic reaction, avoid the suspected irritant and take your child to their provider. They will likely have you see an allergist if they feel allergy testing is needed. In the meantime, you can use the following:
- Antihistamines can help control itching, runny nose and itchy eyes. Claritin, zyrtec, or allegra are all available over-the-counter. Benadryl can also be used but might make your child sleepy.
- Antihistamine eye drops can help itchy eyes. Recommended brands include patanol, pataday, or zaditor.
- Intranasal steroids (nasal spray) like Flonase can help reduce sneezing and clear a stuffy nose.
- Topical steroids like hydrocortisone or triamcinolone can help reduce skin itching and swelling. These are available in some forms over the counter, some by prescription.
Check in with K if…
- You have general questions about your child’s condition
- You want general followup for your child
- You have questions about supportive care
- Your child’s symptoms don’t go away after treatment but are not alarming
See a doctor in person if…
All children who have an allergic reaction should visit their provider and probably an allergist as soon as possible to evaluate the cause and discuss management.
In the meantime, if your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, then take them immediately to the emergency room. In addition to hives, these include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Throat tightness or swelling
- Tongue or lip swelling
- Crampy stomach ache, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Lightheadedness or passing out
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.