Parent Information

Severe Allergic Reactions

A severe allergic reaction is called an anaphylactic reaction.  Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction begin within 30 to 60 minutes of exposure to a bee sting, drug, food, or other allergen.  The symptoms to watch for are:

  • Wheezing, croupy cough, or difficulty breathing.
  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Dizziness or passing out
  • Widespread hives, swelling, or itching (only considered part of a severe reaction when present along with other above symptoms)

What to do when the above symptoms are present:

  1. Use your epinephrine pen! Time is of the essence during a severe allergic reaction.  If your child is having the above symptoms, use the epinephrine pen immediately.  Also, if your child has had a severe reaction in the past and has been exposed again, give the epinephrine pen BEFORE any symptoms start.
  2. Call 911!  If your child has these severe symptoms and was given epinephrine, this is of vital importance.  Even though your child’s symptoms may improve quickly after getting the medication, he will need to be monitored for the next several hours for a couple of reasons.  Epinephrine is a quick-acting medication, but it does not last very long.  Your child may still be having a reaction, and may need another dose of epinephrine.  Also, anaphylactic reactions sometimes come in two phases, with the second one coming between 2 and 4 hours later.   Therefore, it is very important that your child be seen and monitored in an ER.
  3. Give an antihistamine.  If you have Benadryl or another antihistamine at home, give a dose in addition to the epinephrine.


Using your epinephrine pen.

Review the instructions included with your pen and know it well BEFORE an emergency happens and you need to use it.  All epinephrine pens require the injection be on the outer thigh and it be held there for 10 seconds.  If you are unclear on how to use your pen, please come in to our office, and one of our nurses will teach you on a demonstration pen.

Emergency kits containing epinephrine should be kept at home, school, and in a backpack or other personal bag.  As well, your child should have a medical ID necklace or bracelet with the stated allergy on it.


Websites for more information:

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology -

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America -

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network -

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