Hay Fever, Other Allergic Reactions & Anaphylactic Shock

Fact Checked

allergic_reactionThis is the season dreaded by many hay fever sufferers, it can cause misery with the frustrating symptoms. It is a useful skill to be able to treat allergic reactions as a quick response may be needed depending on the severity.


An allergic reaction is hypersensitivity which causes an abnormal reaction to normally harmless substances, such as pollen, food, a medication or a chemical.

The St Mark James First Aid manual says in an allergic reaction, the immune system ‘attacks’ this substance and causes various reactions, usually affecting the respiratory system, digestive system or the skin.

First Aid Classes teach the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These can be:

  • red, itchy rash or raised areas of skin
  • wheezing and difficulty in breathing
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhoea


Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen.

Hay fever is usually not a severe reaction. The symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny, itchy or blocked nose
  • itchy eyes

When you encounter a patient experiencing an allergic reaction, your first job as a First Aider is to assess the severity of the patients’ reaction. Identify the signs and symptoms and find out if they have any known allergies.

If the patients symptoms are mild, then St Mark James Training states you can give assistance in treating them. The patient should take any medication they may have.

However, if the patient is distressed or experiences any breathing difficulties you must obtain emergency assistance straight away as this may be an anaphylactic reaction.


Some people are at risk of a dangerous reaction, known as anaphylactic shock. This condition is life-threatening and must be treated immediately. St Mark James Training teaches the knowledge needed to react quickly and appropriately to this situation.

Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction which affects the entire body. It can be caused by a variety of substances, including a food allergy, drug allergy, insect bites/stings and skin or airborne contact with particular materials.

The patient may not know they have an allergy, and it can occur even if there has been no reaction to the substance previously.

An anaphylactic reaction is recognised by:

  • anxiety
  • widespread red, blotchy skin outbreak
  • swelling of the tongue and throat
  • puffy eyes
  • difficulty in breathing or chest tightness
  • signs of shock

St Mark James First Aid manual states it can develop within seconds, minutes or over hours and can be fatal. First Aid Classes emphasise emergency removal to hospital is vital as the patient will need an injection of adrenaline.

Patients who are aware that they have a severe allergy may carry their own treatment, often an ‘EpiPen’ (containing adrenaline) for self-administration. If they do have this treatment, assist them in using it.

Continue to monitor the patient until specialist help arrives. Check their airway and breathing if they become unconscious and be ready to administer CPR if necessary. If they are unconscious but still breathing, put them into the recovery position.

If the patient remains conscious, assist them in finding the most comfortable position to relieve their breathing and continue to speak in a calm and reassuring voice until help arrives.

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