What to do if a child has an allergic reaction (by Ashley Mills)

Guest post by Ashley Mills

There have been lots of stories in the news recently about children suffering from allergic reactions.  These are predominantly about kids who know they are allergic to certain things. However, it’s equally important to know what to do if a child has a reaction to something when they haven’t yet been diagnosed.

Allergic reactions can vary greatly in severity. They can be scary both for the child and the parent. The fear factor is high because something is happening to the child’s body that neither they nor their parent can control. So knowing what to do is crucial.

Allergic reactions can develop at any age, not just in early childhood.  Allergies can be triggered by skin or airborne contact, injection (e.g. medication or insect/sting) or swallowing. Allergic reactions can develop within seconds or minutes of contact with the trigger factor, so recognising that someone is having a reaction and helping to alleviate the symptoms can be vital.

Signs that a child might be having an allergic reaction include:

  • Itchiness/tingling – either locally on the skin or around the mouth or on the tongue if they’ve swallowed something.
  • Swelling – eyes can go puffy and closed, lips/tongue can swell.
  • Tightening of the throat – people can find it hard to swallow/talk and begin to wheeze or gasp for air, which leads on to –
  • Difficulty breathing, complaining of a tight chest or laboured breathing.
  • Blotchy skin – which can become widespread over the child’s body. The blotches can develop into blisters known as hives.
  • Expression of anxiety/worry.
  • Signs of shock – lowered levels of responsiveness, complaining of nausea, feeling shivery, thirsty.

If you see any of these signs, it’s important to take action.

  • KEEP CALM – think of a swan. Under the surface they’re paddling very fast to appear serene! Staying calm for your child can make a huge difference in keeping them calm and helping them feel reassured. And if your child is calm, they will listen to you and respond better to your help.
  • Call for an ambulance – especially if your child is under 12 months or has anything affecting the mouth area (such as swelling) or impaired breathing. It’s imperative to get an ambulance on the way to you.
  • Help your child to sit up and lean forward slightly – a sitting position will help them breathe easier.
  • Get your child to put their arms out in front of them and rest them on a table or other sturdy surface. This will ease the breathing by opening out the chest more.
  • If you have any antihistamine and your child is over one year old, it’s ok to give them a dose. Read the information on the packaging to make sure you give the correct dose for their age. Do remember that you will need to tell any medical staff that you have given a dose of medication, with the name, amount and time it was given.

Although allergic reactions can be frightening and serious, quick actions can make a huge difference.

Ashley Mills has many years qualified Early Years Education experience and is the owner of Daisy First Aid Elmbridge, running Paediatric First Aid classes. See www.daisyfirstaid.com to locate your nearest Paediatric First Aid trainer.

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