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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers about first aid for babies and children:severe allergic reaction / anaphylaxis

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

What is anaphylactic shock?

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Answer

Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction which makes it difficult for someone to breathe. Once a child is identified as being at risk of anaphylactic shock, the doctor may give them an auto-injector, containing drugs, which will help to ease the symptoms in an emergency.

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Q

What sorts of food items can cause a severe allergic reaction/anaphylactic shock?

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The most common foods that can cause allergic reactions are things like nuts, shellfish, dairy products and eggs. Other things such as latex, bee and wasp stings, and certain medications can also cause allergic reactions.

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Q

How will I know if it is a severe allergic reaction?

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Answer

Babies and children may occasionally have mild allergies, or abnormal reactions resulting in itchy skin and eyes. However, a severe reaction can cause symptoms such as swelling of their tongue or neck and difficulty in breathing. If you observe these symptoms, call 999.

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Q

Can I do anything to prevent an allergic reaction?

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Once a baby or child has a known allergy, you can prevent a severe allergic reaction by keeping them away from the cause of the allergy.

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Q

How will I know if my baby or child is at risk of anaphylactic shock or has a severe allergy?

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It is likely you won’t know your baby or child has a severe allergy until they come into contact with the thing they are allergic to. For all children with a severe allergy there will be a ‘first time’, which may be very frightening.

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Q

How do I use an auto-injector?

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Answer

The auto-injector will have instructions on the side of its packaging which you should follow.  Give the auto-injector you used to the medical professionals when they arrive.

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Q

If I’m looking after a baby or child with a known allergy and they have their own auto-injector, can I use the injector on them if they suffer a severe allergic reaction?

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Yes. If the child has their own auto-injector, you can give them an auto-injection following the guidance on the packaging.

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Q

How can I get an insect sting out of a baby or child’s skin?

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If the sting is still in the skin, brush or scrape it off sideways with your fingernail or a credit card. After the sting has been removed, apply something cold to the area (such as an ice pack) to minimise the pain and swelling. Be aware: this may not reduce the risk of an allergic reaction for a baby or child with a severe allergy.

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Q

What should I do if my baby or child becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?

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