Home accidents and emergencies are peculiar because you cannot predict when they occur. Being equipped with basic home accidents and emergencies management skills can be the difference to saving a life. In the subsequent articles, we shall Bridge the health gap by building our knowledge and skills to confidently manage common home accidents and emergencies to alleviate suffering, minimize complications, and preserve life.
A group of disorders characterized by hypersensitivity of the immune system from rather harmless substance. There is enough evidence to link chronic allergic inflammation with most lifestyle related and debilitating diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, among other autoimmune diseases.
Allergic diseases are a public health problem affecting over 30% of the world population. I have experienced a fair share of allergies. Today, when I cook for the family, I have to consider what can trigger an allergic reaction to one of my family members. This challenge is not unique to me alone; a neighbor has a child allergic to cow’s milk, another family has an adolescent allergic to eggs, and I know of a grandmother with episodes of asthmatic attacks whenever the weather changes.
Allergies are one of the most underrated causes of home emergencies. Worldwide, incidences of allergic diseases are increasing causing untold suffering, emotional stress and lost productivity. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes a normal and harmless substance for a dangerous invasion (allergen). The offending substance causes over activity of the immune system (defense mechanism) and produces histamine, a chemical that causes allergic signs and symptoms. The degree of reaction varies and can be mild and subside once the allergen is removed, treated with a mild antihistamine, or life-threatening to require a medical emergency.
An allergic reaction can occur after eating, inhaling, or touching an offending substance or object. This article will look at factors that increase risks to allergic disease, common triggers to allergic reaction, signs and symptoms, home management, anaphylaxis, prevention measures, and when to seek emergency medical care;
Risk factors in the development of allergic diseases
- A combination of genetic and environmental factors are probable causes of allergy.
- Allergies tend to run in families. A person is at a higher risk of developing an allergy if another family member has a known allergic disease.
- Allergy is more common in children and young adults and tends to get worse as age advances.
- Allergy co-exists with autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto thyroiditis, the cause of hypothyroidism.
- Lifestyle behaviors like tobacco smoking are known risks of allergic diseases.
- Environmental factors related to indoor and outdoor air pollution increase the risks of allergic diseases.
Common triggers of allergic reaction that people should be cautious of;
- Insects bites and stings from bees, wasps, ants
- Foods Allergy. Common food allergens are peanut, milk, soybeans, wheat, eggs, fish, nuts (almonds, walnuts)
- Medication allergy. Common medical drug triggers are antibiotics such as penicillin, analgesics like aspirin, ibuprofen, chemotherapy drugs, and anticonvulsants.
- Plants pollen from trees, weeds, and grasses
- Breathing dust mint (tinny bugs found in house dust)
- Contact with animal proteins found in skin cells, saliva, and urine. Cats and dogs are sources of allergens in the home environment. The allergens come from the sweat glands in cats and salivary glands in dogs. Cat allergen is the most difficult to remove as it can remain in the house even after the cat has moved out.
- Contact with latex informs of balloons, rubber bands, condoms, and gloves.
- Smoke. Wood smoke and tobacco smoke are known causes of an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of allergic reactions
Symptoms of allergic reactions stem from the body’s response to the invasion by producing histamine. Allergic reactions can cause mild symptoms, that can clear away when the trigger is removed, or severe symptoms that may require treatment.
- Swelling of face, lips, and eyes
- Tingling mouth and swollen tongue
- Itchiness (urge to scratch, can be specific to body part or generalized, maybe accompanied by hives)
- Hives (also known as urticarial are itchy, red or pink raised swelling on the skin)
- Rash (red, bumpy, dry, and itchy skin)
- Nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose)
- Sneezing (results from irritation of nostrils)
- Coughing (usually accompanied by runny nose and congestion)
- Scratchy throat (irritation and inflammation of the throat)
- Watery, itchy eyes (conjunctivitis)
Severe allergic reaction either from food, medication, insects’ bites, and stings can present with the following symptoms
- Abdominal pains and cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain and tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of face, tongue, and throat
- Fear and anxiety
- Loss of consciousness
Management of allergic reaction
- Avoidance is the best management. When this is not possible, use medication to counteract the effects of histamine production.
- Get a doctor to review the symptoms and prescribed anti-histamine or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle to minimize immunological allergic triggers and effects.
Anaphylaxis is the most severe and life-threatening form of allergic reaction that occurs suddenly on exposure to the allergen. The anaphylaxis causes the body to release a large amount of histamine that causes the blood pressure to drop quickly and the airway to go into spasm and narrows the wide pipe leading to difficulty breathing. The person may have a rapid pulse, restlessness, nausea, and vomiting.
Severe anaphylaxis can lead to shock, an almost irreversible situation that can block the airways and stops breathing. Low blood pressure, poor oxygenation of vital organs lead to brain damage, kidney failure, heart failure, heart attack, and death.
Common triggers of anaphylaxis are food allergies, medication such as antibiotics, stings from bees, wasps, and latex.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
- Sudden skin reaction, sprouts of red rashes, and itchy skin
- Swollen tongue and constricted throat
- Difficult breathing
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness and fainting
Give first aid to a person with anaphylactic shock by;
- Send a medical alert message or contact emergency medical services. Alert someone else who can make a telephone call to emergency services as you assist the patient
- Check if the person has a medical alert bracelet or they have injectable epinephrine and assist them.
- Do not give oral medication as they are likely to compromise breathing.
- Calm the person and reassure them that you have called for help
- Assist the person to lie down in a comfortable position
- Raise the person’s legs about 12 inches higher to allow the blood to flow to vital organs and prevent damage.
- Keep the person warm by covering with a blanket or any warm clothes.
- In case the person is vomiting, turn the head to the side to prevent choking.
- Loosen clothes around the neck to ease breathing
- A cardiac arrest can occur when the allergic reaction is very severe. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) at 100/per minute’s compressions until the medical team arrives and takes over. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation is a topic on its own that we shall cover in our subsequent articles.
Factors that can increase risk of anaphylaxis;
Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergic reaction. You are likely to experience anaphylaxis if;
- You had a similar experience of a severe allergic reaction. Repeated exposure to the risks of an allergy increases a more severe reaction.
- A person with known asthma. Asthma affects the respiratory tract compromising breathing. In such a person, the chances of anaphylaxis reaction are much higher.
- Advancing in age, older patients have severe reactions. Elderly persons experience severe allergic reactions yet have fewer skin symptoms, leading to loss of consciousness and cardiac involvement.
- Medicine such as beta-blockers, aspirin, associated with severe anaphylaxis reactions. Medicine is the most common cause of severe anaphylaxis and is often fatal. Inform your health providers about the drug allergy to prevent inadvertent exposure.
- Stress. There is substantial evidence linking psychological stress and allergic diseases.
Prevention of allergic reaction
- Avoid the allergen as much as possible. Try and isolate the allergen and plan to eliminate or avoid it. Discuss with your health provider to conduct an allergen test to identify and isolate the allergen.
- Take medication as prescribed by your health provider. Avoid medication that can increase the severity of allergic reactions or complicate their treatment. For example, blood pressure-lowering medications are known for worsening allergic reaction symptoms.
- When someone does not know what might be causing the allergic symptoms, a journal of daily foods and activities can help identify related patterns.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. During an emergency, the labeled bracelet can alert the emergency care team of your allergy status. It can help prevent unexpected exposure to an allergen that can have dire consequences like anaphylactic shock.
- Have a medical kit with available prescribed and over–the–counter anti-allergic medications for first aid.
- Keep track of allergic reactions, recognize factors that trigger the onset, differentiate severity, use medication auto-injection, and call for emergency services even if you think symptoms have subsided because the allergic reaction may recur once the drug wears off.
- Allergic reaction caveat. When the health provider is aware of your allergies, caution is marked in the medical file. This alert will inform every health care provider that you have an allergy.
- Identify and know the types of animals that you are allergic to and reduce your exposure. Always wash hands after touching a pet, keep the pet out of the house, and never let the pet into the bedroom. Clean the house thoroughly to remove all allergens left behind by the pet. In case the allergy persists, relocate the pet away from your home.
- Carefully check food ingredients labels for allergens. To avoid allergy triggers read all packaged food labels. If you are allergic to any ingredient in the allergen section, you should not purchase it as it can trigger the allergy.
- Ensure that your family, friends, and co-workers know about your allergies and what to do when you have an allergic reaction. Let them know where you keep your medicine or auto-injection epinephrine so that they can assist you during an emergency.
- Practice exclusive breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months compared to formula feeding protects high-risk children of mothers with a family history of allergy from milk allergy and eczema.