During the spring and summer months, many people struggle with pollen allergies. Nurse Rose MelendezRose Melendez, director of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, tells us how to know if someone is having a more serious allergic reaction and how to respond.

What types of more serious problems can be caused by allergies?

Nurse Rose: While many of us are familiar with allergies to pollen that cause the usual stuffy nose, watery eyes and scratchy throat, some allergies can actually cause anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. In fact, my daughter recently experienced anaphylaxis from an unknown source and was experiencing difficulty breathing and a swollen, itchy mouth and throat area.

What might cause are action like that to occur?

Nurse Rose: Food allergies are the most common cause of anaphylaxis, like allergies to milk, eggs, fish and nuts. Even a tiny amount of the food can cause anaphylaxis in someone who is allergic.

Other common allergies include:

  • Insect stings
  • Medications
  • Latex

How do you know if someone is having a serious allergic reaction?

Nurse Rose: You might not know that you have an allergy or could even develop an allergy later in life.

Be aware of these signs and symptoms.

  • Itching, redness swelling hives on skin
  • Sneezing, stuffy/runny nose
  • Itching, swelling of lips or tongue
  • Tightness of throat and difficult breathing, swallowing
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain
  • Weak pulse, passing out, shock
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

What should we do if we see these signs?

Nurse Rose: If the person knows about their allergy and has an epi-pen, an automatic injectable medication for people with allergies, then use it immediately.

As always, call 911 immediately. It’s important seek emergency care quickly, because even 30 to 60 seconds in anaphylaxis could lead to death in serious cases.

Can we avoid allergic reactions?

Nurse Rose: There is really no way to predict having an allergic reaction for the first time. However, if you know that you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you should see a doctor to get the proper support and treatment.

If you’re aware of your allergy, follow these simple steps to avoid reactions.

  • Seek support from your doctor
  • Identify and avoid the food or products to which you are allergic
  • Follow-up with an allergist whenever you have a reaction
  • Be prepared. Carry an Epi-Pen at all times

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Hear more health tips from Rose by tuning in to WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m.