Tips for Handling Difficulties With Severe Allergies
Anaphylaxis is scary and a real threat for those with severe allergies. Common triggers of anaphylaxis are foods such as peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish, as well as insect stings from bees and wasps. If your loved one has a sudden anaphylaxis attack, remember the following:
- Take immediate action and call 911. The rapid nature of anaphylaxis leaves no time for inattention, hesitation or error. Get immediate help if your loved one is experiencing symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat, itchy skin, hives or tingles, wheezing, loss of consciousness, dizziness and swollen lips, tongue or throat.
- Use an Epi-Pen. If your loved one has a history of anaphylaxis, don’t wait for symptoms to appear if he or she has come in contact with the allergen. Even if it is a false alarm, an epinephrine injection won’t hurt him or her. Inject epinephrine if your loved one is unable to, following the instructions. Epinephrine is injected into the outer muscle of the thigh. The person may need more than one injection if the symptoms do not improve after five to 15 minutes for an adult or five to 20 minutes for a child. If the person stops breathing, do CPR.
- See a doctor. Following an anaphylactic emergency, be sure that your loved one is not alone for a full day following the attack, in case of a reoccurrence. Go to the hospital and report the reaction to his or her doctor. Reflect on the circumstance or trigger that began the attack so you can avoid it in the future.
- Be over-prepared. It is a good idea to keep two epinephrine injection kits with the person at all times, in case he or she need a second dose. Having this life-saving tool available is invaluable. For mild allergic symptoms such as hives, give your loved one an antihistamine or other medication suggested or prescribed by the primary physician.
Learn About Resources to Help Care for a Person Who Has Severe Allergies
Feel free to research the following resources for people with severe allergies.
Learn School Safety Tips for Children With Severe Allergies
For a child with severe allergies, there are tools and resources that can be used by school staff such as teachers and nurses to ensure that they understand the allergy, treatment and emergency procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a tool kit for managing food allergies in school with tip sheets, training presentations and even podcasts to help the staff implement important health and safety guidelines.
The CDC’s site has a wealth of information on food allergies, what you need to know, state guidelines for managing allergies in school, a food allergy action plan and much more. Similarly, Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) has resources for keeping kids safe at school, including handouts, webinar videos and articles. For asthma and asthma-treatment specific information for children at school, check out the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools.
About Online Resources for Severe Allergies
Addressing indoor allergens requires vigilance, but the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) attempts to make it easier with an online tool to help manage indoor allergens. The EPA has a 10-step guide to help make your home more asthma-friendly as well as a guide on implementing an asthma home-visit program to manage environmental risk. For those suffering from allergens that are present in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has information on what can be done to address health concerns.
Learn Caregiver Self-Care Strategies
In many ways, caring for a person with severe allergies is much easier than caring for someone with a more acute, untreatable or degenerative condition. However, allergies can be life-threatening and cause anxiety for the patient and the caregiver. They can be chronic, unrelenting and leave a caregiver feeling drained, strained and burned out. Follow these strategies to practice better self-care and avoid further difficulties.
- Relax and express yourself to people you trust. Caregivers need to listen to their body and meet their own physical needs. Remembering their own health aids makes them more effective caregivers in the long run. Communicating with others, whether it’s a trusted family member, friend or a support group is a way to air out emotions, share frustrations and feel understood, valued and listened to.
- Organize ahead of time or bring alternative options. Arriving at a birthday party and finding that a child can’t enjoy any of the food is frustrating. Many caregivers find it helpful to plan ahead to avoid potentially difficult situations. Bringing backup snacks, a special dish or another alternative is often a necessity.
- Spread awareness on allergies. Communicating with other parents, teachers, friends, family, service staff and doctors often becomes second nature for those with food allergies and those who care for them. Many people don’t understand severe allergies and these conversations are often eye-opening, educational and instrumental in spreading knowledge and awareness. Take the time to clearly communicate with others to enhance their own understanding of severe allergies and their effects.
- Remember the positive. As a caregiver, friend or family member of someone with severe allergies, remember your value. You are an advocate, an educator and a helper. You are someone for your loved one to vent their feelings to, but you both also share in the experience, providing support for one another. Stay positive. Reflecting on the goodness of life around you reminds you both that, even though your loved one may never be rid of severe allergies, there is still so much goodness to enjoy. Severe allergies don’t have to throw a wrench into the person’s life plans or derail any dreams. Together, with the help of knowledge, you can navigate the condition, grow and thrive.