Learn first aid for a baby or child who is having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

1. The baby or child may develop a rash, itchiness or swelling on their hands, feet or face. Their breathing may slow down.

They may also vomit or have diarrhoea.

Common causes of allergic reactions are pollen, stings and bites, latex and some food items, such as nuts, shellfish, eggs or dairy products.

2. Call 999 if you see these symptoms.

They need urgent medical assistance because an allergic reaction can affect a baby or child very quickly, and is potentially very serious. The reaction may cause swelling of their airway, causing them to stop breathing.

3. If they have a known allergy, use their auto-injector.

If they have a known allergy, they may have been prescribed an auto-injector. Follow the guidance on the packaging.

4. Reassure the baby or child and make them as comfortable as possible while you wait for the ambulance.

Tell the ambulance crew if the auto-injector has been used.

Watch how to help a baby or child who is having a severe allergic reaction (1 minute 7 seconds)

Common questions about first aid for a baby or child who is having a severe allergic reaction

What kinds of food can cause allergic reactions?


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


What is anaphylaxis?


How do I use an auto-injector?


Can I use an auto-injector on a baby or child with a known allergy if they have a severe allergic reaction?


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


Can I do anything to prevent an allergic reaction?


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


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


 

What kinds of food can cause allergic reactions?

The most common foods that can cause allergic reactions are:

  • nuts
  • shellfish
  • dairy products
  • eggs

Allergic reactions can also be caused by:

  • latex
  • bee and wasp stings
  • certain medications

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

The baby or child may have mild allergies, resulting in itchy skin and eyes.

If they have a severe allergic reaction, they might also have symptoms such as swelling of their tongue or neck and difficulty breathing.

Call 999 if you spot these symptoms.

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What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis (also called anaphylactic shock) is a severe allergic reaction that makes it difficult for a baby or child to breathe.

If a doctor identifies a baby or child as being at risk of anaphylaxis, they may give them an auto-injector. An auto-injector contains medication that helps to ease the symptoms in an emergency.

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How do I use an auto-injector?

The auto-injector will have instructions on the side of its packaging which you should follow.

Give the auto-injector you used to the ambulance crew when they arrive.

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Can I use an auto-injector on a baby or child with a known allergy if they have a severe allergic reaction?

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

Find out:

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Can I do anything to prevent an allergic reaction?

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

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. This may be very frightening.

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

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 that this may not reduce the risk of an allergic reaction for a baby or child with a severe allergy.

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Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for a baby or child who is having a severe allergic reaction.