Causes, Symptoms and First-Aid for Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction is very common and is caused by the erroneous response of our immune system to substances that are safe for the human body. When these substances enter the body of the person who is allergic to them, their immune system starts attacking the substance waywardly. This attack is responsible for the allergic reaction caused in people.

Mostly the reaction only results in rashes or sneezing, but in extreme cases, allergic reaction can lead to the death of a person. An allergic reaction like this is called anaphylaxis. Substances that cause immune system reaction in only certain people are called allergens, which include pollen, certain types of food and bee sting.

Causes of Allergic Reactions

Medical science is yet to discover the reason why allergies are caused and why only certain people develop an allergic reaction to certain substances only. Doctors only know that allergies appear to run in families and people having close relatives with certain allergies are at an increased risk of developing similar allergies themselves. Medical science is far from answering the reasons allergies develop, but doctors have found out that most allergens can be divided into the following categories:




Allergy to certain food products is most common in people who get their allergic reaction through inheritance. This is the reason the allergy to food appears more common in young children and likely comes with other allergies and asthma.


Certain prescription and non-prescription medications can also result in allergies. Allergic reactions caused by medicines are very common and difficult to predict. In some cases the extent of damage caused by a medicine can be very serious.

Insect venom

It is a normal body reaction to develop redness and swelling when an insect bites it. The reaction is due to the presence of venom or toxin in the sting of insect. However, in an allergic reaction to an insect’s venom the body’s response does not remain limited to itching because immune system overreaction causes more damage to the body.


Some people are allergic to animals, their skin, hair, saliva or even their dead skin. In case of an allergic reaction to animals, the allergy does not usually results in skin problems; rather it manifests itself in the form of breathing problems.

Natural rubber (Latex)

For some people the allergic reaction is caused because of frequent interaction with a natural substance. An example of this kind of allergy is caused by continuous use of latex gloves.


Cosmetics also can cause allergic reaction in a few individuals. In most cases the basic allergens are such artificial extensions as nails and hairs. In a few cases henna and tattoos can also lead to allergies.

Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

It is difficult to know the extent of damage that can be caused by a specific allergen, studies only show that allergic reactions can vary from anywhere between mild to extreme. In most cases first time exposure results in mild reaction, however continuous exposure to the same allergen increases the seriousness of the symptoms.

Symptoms of Mild Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions can vary from mild to severe and mostly on the first exposure to the allergen, the reaction is mild. The initial symptoms of a mild allergic reaction are itching and red spots on the skin. The itching is normally associated with rashes. In addition to itching, reaction also causes watery eyes and blockage of the nasal passage.

Symptoms of Severe Allergic Reactions

As exposure to the allergen increases, the reaction becomes serious. A number of symptoms are accompanied by a severe allergic reaction. Some of the major symptoms are the swelling of tongue, face and eyes and the feeling of nausea and vomiting. Weakness in the body, a flushed face, dizziness and anxiety are also certain clear indicators of a severe reaction to an allergen. Some of the extreme symptoms of the reaction are difficulty in breathing and eating, as well as diarrhea and unconsciousness. In addition to these symptoms, pain in chest and abdomen along with heart palpitation point out to a severe reaction.

First Aid to Allergic Reactions

In some cases, allergic reactions could be life-threatening, so it's extremely important to know what actions to take if someone is having an allergic reaction.

1. First Aid to Mild Reactions

  • Calm and reassure the person
  • Identify the cause of the reaction and separate the patient from the allergen
  • In case of a rash, apply cool compresses and hydrocortisone cream
  • Make sure medical help is available as soon as possible

2. First Aid to Severe Reactions

  • Check the ABC’s of basic life support i.e. airways, breathing and circulation and if required provide CPR and rescue breathing
  • Call emergency service 911
  • Make sure that the person does not develop anxiety by making him feel calm
  • Separate the person from the cause of the reaction
  • Make sure to provide the allergy medication if he has one with him. Make sure the medication is not oral in case he is having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Make the patient lie flat on his back with feet raised 12 inches above to avoid a shock condition. Avoid doing this if the patient feels hurt or uncomfortable in this position

3. What You Should Not Do During the Process

  • Do NOT think that the injections received by the patient will prevent any future allergic reaction.
  • Do NOT raise the head of the patient in case he is having breathing problems, as this can result in blocking airways.
  • Do NOT provide oral medicine to the patient suffering from allergic reaction if he feels difficult to breathe.

How to Prevent Allergic Reactions

  • Make sure you do not intake food and medicine that you know have triggered a reaction in the past. Be cautious and carefully look up the ingredients of products before consumption.
  • In case of having children with a certain food allergy, introduce any new food item in small amounts and only one at a time to find a new allergen if there is one.
  • A medical ID tag should be worn by people who have had a severe reaction.
  • Make sure that you carry all the medications like injectable epinephrine and Chlor-Trimeton according to your physician’s guidelines, if you have a history of severe allergic reaction.
  • Avoid using your emergency medication on someone else, because the other person might have an underlying condition, making the medication harmful for him.

Watch a video about how to control your allergies:

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