Allergies: When it’s An Emergency

Those of us with mild seasonal allergies know that they are a nuisance. But, for some people, an allergic reaction can be so severe that it can be life threatening. The good news: if you act fast, you can stop it!

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What are severe allergic reactions?

A severe allergic reaction is when the body’s immune system reacts badly to a substance that is usually harmless to most people. We call this substance an allergy trigger. A severe allergic reaction can occur within minutes to several hours after you come in contact with the trigger.

Some of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can be life threatening. For example, if your throat swells or airways become blocked you would be unable to breathe. Another example, is a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy, weak and faint, or make you pass out.


What causes them?

Severe allergic reactions are rare and are unlike seasonal allergies. Severe allergic reactions are usually caused by a food allergy but can be triggered by a variety of things.

Common triggers include:

  • Foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews), wheat (in children), fish, shellfish, milk and eggs
  • Certain medications (penicillin, ASA, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Insect stings (bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets and fire ants)

Less common triggers include:

  • Latex
  • Exercise


The two most common symptoms of a severe allergic reaction are:

  • Hives, and
  • Swelling (especially of the throat, lips and tongue)

Other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Metallic taste or itching in the mouth
  • Reddening or itching of the skin
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate, and weak and rapid pulse
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Paleness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Anxiety

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction seek emergency medical attention. Don’t wait!


What to do

If you have a known allergy or have had a previous severe allergic reaction, you can ask your doctor to prescribe epinephrine. Epinephrine is a hormone our bodies produce and is used to stop the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

Epinephrine should be used immediately in the following situations:

  1. As soon as you start feeling symptoms of a severe allergy
  2. As soon as you have been exposed to your known trigger(s)

After you have taken your epinephrine go to the nearest emergency medical facility immediately, even if you feel much better. A health care professional will be able to determine whether you need further care.


Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart is always available to talk to you about how to manage allergies. Come on into the pharmacy and... Just ask!

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

The pharmacist at Walmart does not endorse or recommend any sponsor or their products or services.
Any representation, performance claim, warranty or guarantee in any materials herein is the sole responsibility of the sponsor that has prepared such materials and is not independently verified by Walmart.

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