How to treat severe allergic reactions; new device offers high-tech option

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

1. Seek emergency care
Get immediate help if the person has these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions, even if there are no symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
  • Hoarseness or trouble speaking
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse
  • Skin that itches, tingles , swells or turns red

2. Inject epinephrine immediately

  • If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan from a doctor for injecting epinephrine and other emergency measures, follow it.
  • If the person has a history of anaphylaxis, don’t wait for signs of a severe reaction to inject epinephrine. 
  • Follow instructions carefully. 
  • Inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh
  • Do not inject medicine into hands or feet, which can cause tissue damage.
  • The person may need more than one injection if there’s no improvement after the first.  For an adult, inject again after 10 to 20 minutes.  For a child, inject again after 5 to 30 minutes.

3. Do CPR if the person stops breathing
Many children have allergies.  Most never have a dangerous allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.  Still, it’s best to be prepared, including when your child is at school.

Your child should carry an epinephrine auto-injector, such as the new Auvi-Q (right) or a traditional EpiPen.  Make sure your child and the teacher know how to use it.

The Auvi-Q, which is compact enough to fit in a pocket or small purse, is the " first and only compact epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions that talks you through the injection process step by step."

Make sure everyone at school who’s around your child, teachers, aides, administrators, are trained to recognize an anaphylactic reaction and know what to do.

Tell teachers, nurses, and other school staff about your child’s allergies. 

A typical allergy plan includes:

  • A description of your child’s allergy, such as peanuts or insect stings.
  • Your child’s symptoms
  • The name of the medication to give for each symptom and the correct dosage
  • Who to call in case of emergency

Avoid triggers

  • If your child has a food allergy, pack their food and tell them not to eat anything they didn’t bring to school
  • If your child is allergic to bee stings, you may want to avoid dressing in bright clothing, which attracts bees
  •  If your child is allergic to nuts, ask the school to make the lunchroom or your child’s classroom a nut free zone

Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. For kids who do not like traditional medical-alert jewelry, the cute AllerMates or Beware Bandits wristbands might be a good option.

Your child should carry two shots in case they need more than one.

If your child has anaphylaxis and gets a shot of epinephrine, they will need to get immediate medical care. The shot won’t stop an anaphylactic reaction.  It will only control the symptoms for a few minutes. You should still call 911 right away and get the child to an emergency room.

As with any drug, epinephrine does expire.  Look at the expiration date.

Antihistamines such as (Benadryl) are included in allergy kits to stop or reduce itching, hives, sneezing and wheezing, and other symptoms caused by an allergic reaction.  However, they are not a substitute for an epinephrine shot.

Bee, wasp, yellow jack, hornet, or fire ant stings most often trigger allergic reactions. 

The severity of an insect sting reaction varies from person to person. A normal reaction will result in pain, swelling and redness around the sting site.

Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to