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An allergy is hypersensitivity to a substance (allergen) that is not normally considered to be harmful. The body's response can be mild but irritating or severe, quick and life-threatening. The most extreme response is anaphylaxis, which can result in anaphylactic shock that, if untreated, can kill. The number of allergy sufferers is increasing in the developed world.

First Aid For Treating mild reactions

Mild reactions usually involve skin irritation, minor swelling and a rash. Some reactions take the form of red irritated eyes and sneezing. If the sufferer shows signs of breathing difficulty or impaired consciousness, assume that the reaction is severe and call for immediate medical help.

Common allergens causing mild reactions include insects bites or stings, long grass, flowers and long ­ haired animals.

  1. Offer reassurance and find out if the person has a history of allergic reaction.
  2. Apply a cold compress or calamine lotion to any rash or itchy skin.
  3. Try to identify the source of the allergy so that it can be avoided. Reactions can become more extreme if the person is exposed to the same allergen in the future.
  4. Seek medical advice because tests may be needed to identify the allergen.

Using an auto-injector

If you have been trained to do so, you may help somebody administer her own medicine. Ensure that the medicine belongs to the casualty. Help her to expose an area of skin and to take the lid off the injector. Place the injector on the skin and help the casualty push to administer the medication into the body.

Allergic rhinitis, hay fever and urticaria

If a person experiences an allergic reaction after inhaling a specific airborne substance, the membrane lining the nose, throat and sinuses becomes inflamed, a condition termed allergic rhinitis. This increases mucus production and causes sinus congestion. Symptoms may include blocked or runny nose, itchy, red, watery eyes, sneezing, drowsiness and a sore throat. Depending on the allergen, symptoms may be experienced year-round or seasonally, when the disorder is known as hay fever. Urticaria, also known as nettle rash or hives, is an intensely itchy rash that usually occurs as the result of an allergic reaction. The rash consists of white lumps and red, inflamed areas that may affect the whole body, and usually clears up after a few hours.

Treatment for all these conditions depends on the use of antihistamines and avoiding the allergen when possible.

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