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How To Administer Emergency Treatment for a Food Allergy


Updated June 30, 2014

In the event of an anaphylactic reaction, time is of the essence. Anaphylaxis tends to occur extremely quickly --- in a matter of minutes. The first principle of acting to treat a severe allergic reaction is be decisive. It's better to call for emergency services and not need them than to call too late.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: 10 - 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Recognize the signs of anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock may begin with any of the following symptoms:

    • Difficulty breathing; wheezing
    • Changes in consciousness (including confusion, light-headedness, or stupor)
    • Rapid swelling throughout the body
    • Hives
    • Blue skin
    • Severe abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea

    Be especially alert to the possibility of anaphylaxis in a patient with nut or shellfish allergies, or in any patient who has ever experienced a systemic (whole-body) allergic reaction.

  2. Get help. Call 911 (or your local emergency services number) or have someone drive the patient to the hospital immediately and call ahead to let the hospital know you're coming. Even with proper administration of medication, many patients with anaphylaxis need additional specialized support.

  3. Administer adrenalin (epinephrine) as soon as possible. Patients whose doctors have identified them as likely to experience anaphylactic shock will have been prescribed some form of rescue medication and told when to use it. Epi-Pen is one of the most common brands. Patients should keep this on their person at all times, and family members and school medical personnel should learn how to administer this medication in the event that the patient has lost consciousness.

  4. Be prepared to administer CPR. Because cardiac arrest is a possibility with anaphylactic shock, one of the best investments you can make in your family's safety is for every member of your family who is old enough to take CPR training, which is available through the American Red Cross (among other organizations). If your loved one has lost consciousness, check their pulse and breathing periodically and administer CPR as appropriate until emergency services arrive.


  1. If you're not certain how to use your rescue medication (or your family member's), ask your pharmacist for a tutorial. They'll be happy to show you.
  2. If your loved one begins to vomit, make sure to turn their head sideways in order to prevent choking.

What You Need

  • Telephone
  • Rescue medication
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  3. Food Allergies
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  5. How to Treat a Food Allergy Emergency

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