19 things everyone in the office should know about dealing with severe allergic reactions
Every three minutes at least one person suffers an emergency-level allergic reaction. Severe allergic reactions are becoming more and more common. According to FoodAllergy.org, between the late 90s and mid-2000s, child hospitalizations for allergic reactions tripled.
While most of your staff may be aware of the dangers of allergic reactions, it’s less likely they know how to respond to such an attack.
Some allergic reactions don’t amount to much more than an inconvenience – itchy skin, watery eyes, and runny nose – while others are significant.
Shock, dramatic blood pressure loss, and troubled breathing are signs a person is experiencing anaphylaxis—the medical term for a life-threatening allergic reaction. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Swollen eyes, lips, throat, tongue, and/or face
- A weak, rapid pulse
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Itchy, pale, or flushed skin
- Trouble breathing—wheezing/constricted airways
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Anaphylaxis can be caused by allergies to foods, insect stings, or medications. People with a history of severe allergies are encouraged to carry an epinephrine injector with them at all times.
What to do when someone suffers a severe allergic reaction
Don’t wait. Call 911 immediately if someone’s showing signs of anaphylaxis. In some cases, without proper treatment, such reactions can be fatal within 30 minutes.
After calling emergency services, take the following 9 actions:
1. Call 911. It’s worth repeating—the first step is calling for help.
2. Get information. If the victim is conscious, ask if they’re carrying an epinephrine pen. Also, find out if they have any instructions for helping them.
3. Administering the injection. First ask if they’re capable of giving themselves the shot. If they’re unable, it’ll have to be given to them—most auto-injector pens are operated by pressing the injector onto the thigh.
4. No drinking. While it might seem natural to offer a person suffering from anaphylaxis a drink of water, don’t. Shock causes the digestive system to shut down—they might not be able to swallow, thereby making that seemingly helpful sip of water harmful.
5. Keep them calm. Maintain a scene that’s free of panic. If there are people present who are panicking, they should politely be asked to leave. Help the victim lay on their back—unless they’re vomiting or bleeding from the mouth or nose; if such a choking hazard exists, have them lay on their side. Also, loosen clothing such as neckties, collars, etc.
6. Elevate their feet. To help increase circulation and relaxation, raise their feet approximately one foot from the floor.
7. Keep them warm. Shock causes the blood vessels in the extremities to constrict in an effort to maintain core organ temperatures. Cover the victim with a blanket, coat, or other articles of clothing that will help maintain their body temperature.
8. CPR. If the victim isn’t breathing – coughing means they’re breathing – and they’re unresponsive, administer CPR. CPR should be continued until emergency services arrive. If the individual has gone into sudden cardiac arrest and an AED is available, follow the instructions and use it.
9. See a doctor. In some cases, symptoms might dissipate before receiving medical attention. While the patient might seem fine, it’s still possible for life threatening conditions to erupt again. Doctors typically recommend at least several hours of hospital observation after a severe allergic reaction.
The importance of preparing South Florida
A general understanding of what to do for someone hit with a severe allergic reaction is a solid first step towards saving lives. However, there’s a difference in knowing the basics and being trained in how to respond.
Lifesaving training can help prepare your staff for anaphylaxis. Courses provide students with hands-on experience so when an emergency happens, they are prepared to act.
One Beat CPR+AED offers group classes to help prepare South Florida’s businesses for emergencies. For more information on lifesaving classes for your staff or on an individual basis, call us at 954.321.5305, or connect with us online today.