Allergic Reaction in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

An allergic reaction is an excessive response from your child's immune system to a medicine, chemical, food, insect bite, or other substance. A reaction can range from mild to life-threatening. Some children have a mild rash, hives, and itching or stomach cramps. In severe reactions, swelling of your child's tongue and throat can close up the airway so that your child cannot breathe.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If you know what caused the allergic reaction, help your child avoid it. Your child's allergy may become more severe each time he or she has a reaction.
  • Talk to your doctor about giving your child antihistamines. If you can, give your child an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as loratadine (Claritin), to treat mild symptoms. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Some antihistamines can make you feel sleepy. Mild symptoms include sneezing or an itchy or runny nose; an itchy mouth; a few hives or mild itching; and mild nausea or stomach discomfort.
  • Do not let your child scratch hives or a rash. Put a cold, moist towel on the skin, or have your child take cool baths to relieve itching. Put ice packs on hives, swelling, or insect stings for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your child's skin. Do not let your child take hot baths or showers. They will make the itching worse.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine for you and your child to carry in case your child has a severe reaction. Learn how to give your child the shot, and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it is not expired. If your child is old enough, teach him or her how to give the shot.
  • Take your child to the emergency room every time he or she has a severe reaction, even if you have given your child a shot of epinephrine and your child is feeling better. Symptoms can come back after a shot.
  • Have your child wear medical alert jewellery that lists his or her allergies.
  • Make sure that your child's teachers, babysitters, coaches, and other caregivers know about the allergy. They should have an epinephrine shot, know how and when to give it, and have a plan to take your child to the hospital.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think your child is having a severe allergic reaction.
  • Your child has symptoms in more than one body area, such as mild nausea and an itchy mouth.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if your child feels better.

Call 911 if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over his or her body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or your child may feel very light-headed or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
  • Your child has been given an epinephrine shot, even if your child feels better.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Belly pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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