What You Should Know About Allergic Reactions
Allergies and allergic reactions are very common, often drastically ranging in symptoms and severity based on the allergen, genetics and your body’s natural response. When you are exposed to an allergen that your immune system sees as a threat, your body will react to protect you from what it thinks is harming you, causing allergic reaction symptoms. These allergens could be pollen, pets, foods, chemicals, or even medications. Knowing the signs of an allergic reaction and when it’s time to seek medical help is very important and could potentially save your life or that of someone you love. If you are unsure if you might be allergic to a substance, consider making an appointment with a local allergist who can help you identify your triggers safely and provide you with treatment options.
What are the different types of allergic reactions?
Depending on the substance the individual has been exposed to, allergic reaction symptoms can develop in many forms and affect different areas of the body. In severe cases, allergens can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening reaction to an allergen to which the body has become hypersensitive. Most allergic reactions don’t result in anaphylaxis, but it’s important to know the signs, as this condition can be fatal. An anaphylactic reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something to which an individual is highly allergic. When anaphylaxis begins, the brain releases a flood of chemicals that start to shut down the body’s natural processes and can cause the sufferer to go into shock very rapidly.
Because anaphylaxis is rapid and life-threatening, an injection of epinephrine is essential to relax the constricted muscles around the airways and in the lungs. This injection prevents the airway from closing for a short time until the individual can be transported to an emergency room for further care. It is important to seek emergency medical care after receiving the injection because it’s possible for the recipient to have a second severe allergic reaction after the medication has worn off. If you do not have an emergency epinephrine injection, seek emergency medical help or call 911 immediately.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis include:
- Skin reactions, including hives, itching and flushing or pale skin
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Constriction of airways
- A weak and rapid pulse
- Wheezing and trouble breathing caused by a swollen tongue or throat
- Severe shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
If you think you or someone you know is experiencing anaphylaxis administer an epinephrine injection and seek emergency medical help immediately.
Often referred to as seasonal allergies or Hay Fever, allergic rhinitis occurs when the immune system overacts to allergens in the air, such as dust, pollen, dander and mold. This allergic reaction is widespread and affects more than 50 million Americans each year.
Symptoms of Hay Fever include:
- Itchy nose, eyes, or roof of the mouth
- Runny, stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
Hay Fever can typically be treated with over-the-counter allergy medications, but if your symptoms become more severe, or if you have a child suffering from Hay Fever, you should see your doctor about additional or alternative treatment options.
Food allergies are caused by the overreaction of the immune system to certain foods it identifies as a threat. While triggers, symptoms and the severity of the reaction can vary from person to person, allergic reactions can sometimes be triggered by exposure to only a small amount of the food allergen. While some may experience mild or uncomfortable symptoms, others may have an allergic reaction that is far more frightening, painful and even life-threatening.
Common symptoms of a Food Allergy include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Some mild food reactions can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. If the symptoms are more moderate than mild, avoid exposure to the food that triggered the response and make an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms begin to worsen or become severe, try to stay calm and seek medical help immediately.
Insect Sting Allergy:
While it’s normal for the body to react to insect stings, there is a distinct difference between a normal insect sting reaction and an allergic insect sting reaction. The most common insect stings in the United States come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, honeybees and in the southern US, red and black fire ants. A typical reaction will result in pain, swelling, redness and itching confined to the sting site while an allergic reaction will cause symptoms outside of or include an extensive area around or near the sting site. A typical insect sting on the arm should not produce severe pain and swelling of the whole limb.
Common symptoms of an insect sting allergy include:
- Swelling (in are of sting and sometimes beyond)
Although many insect sting allergic reaction symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter topical and oral medications, it’s vital that you seek medical help if you are experiencing any severe symptoms or believe you may be experiencing anaphylaxis.
Any medication, including over-the-counter, prescription, oral, topical or herbal is capable of triggering a drug allergy. A drug allergy is not the same as a drug side effect or drug toxicity. Drug side effects are known possible reactions and can be found listed on the drug label; an overdose of the medication causes drug toxicity; and a drug allergy is the body’s immune system overacting to the medication.
Common symptoms of a drug allergy include:
- Skin Rash
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
If you think you may be having an allergic reaction to a medication, stop taking the medication immediately and call your doctor. If your symptoms worsen or become severe, seek emergency medical help immediately.
Allergic reactions of any severity can happen at any time. Medco ER & Urgent Care is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and patients can usually be seen by a physician within minutes. With facilities in Plano and Frisco, you can rest assured that help is right around the corner should an allergic reaction occur. Our board-certified physicians and highly-trained nurses are prepared to help you in any situation at any time. If you think you may be having an allergic reaction, please call our Frisco location at 469.392.4100, our Plano location at 469.392.4000, or walk-in at any time.
Your Flu Questions Answered
One of the most common illnesses we treat at Medco ER & Urgent Care is influenza (the flu). While it’s possible to contract the flu year-round, it’s more common to see an increase in those infected with the illness during the fall and winter. As we head into flu season, we believe it’s essential to be knowledgeable about the virus, its symptoms, and how to protect yourself from contracting and spreading the flu. These are the most frequently asked questions we often see regarding influenza.
What are the symptoms?
- Fever of over 100.4° F (38° C)
- Aching muscles
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
How do I know if I have a cold or the flu?
While the symptoms of influenza and the common cold are very similar, those with a cold are less likely to experience a fever, chills, and headaches. Those suffering from a cold are more likely to experience gradual symptoms rather than the abrupt, more severe symptoms of the flu. If you think that you may have the flu, its important that you promptly see a doctor to help prevent the spread of the virus. After a physical, assessing your symptoms and performing tests, your doctor will be able to more accurately tell if you are suffering from a common cold or the flu and treat your condition properly.
How long will I be contagious?
After exposure to the influenza virus, it may take between 1 and 4 days for you to develop symptoms. If a healthy adult has contracted the virus, they will be the most contagious in the first three or four days of developing symptoms but can be contagious 1 day before the appearance of symptoms and up to 7 of being sick. Children and those with a compromised immune system may be contagious for longer than 7 days.
Can the flu be treated at home?
If you are only experiencing minor flu-like symptoms, it is possible to treat and soothe flu symptoms at home with over the counter medication. However, a physician has the ability to more accurately diagnose your condition and prescribe the appropriate antiviral or related prescription medication.
When should I see a doctor for the flu?
If you think that you are experiencing severe flu-like symptoms or are in a high-risk group such as children under the age of 12, those over the age of 65, and individuals with chronic illness or a compromised immune system, it is essential you are seen by a physician. High-risk groups are more likely to develop complications related to the flu, such as pneumonia, sinus infections, bronchitis, and in some rare cases, hospitalization or death. Even in healthy adults, flu-like symptoms are shared by many other, often life-threatening conditions that may require immediate attention, such as a heart attack.
When should I go to the ER for flu-like symptoms?
You should go to the nearest emergency room or seek emergency medical help if you are in a high-risk group or are experiencing:
- A fever of 103° F or higher
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath while at rest
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting
You should take your child to the emergency room or seek emergency medical help if they are experiencing:
- Any of the above symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or breathing fast
- A bluish tone to the skin
- A fever with a rash
- Limited liquid intake
What can I do to prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent contraction of the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. Visit Medco ER & Urgent Care in Plano or Frisco, at any time 24/7 to have you and your family vaccinated before flu season begins.
Wash your hands:
To help protect yourself from getting sick or spread of the virus, regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
Cover your mouth:
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid those who are sick:
Avoid exposure to the virus by limiting close contact with those who are sick. If you are caring for someone who has the flu, its best to limit the number of people who have contact with the sick individual, keep surfaces around the home disinfected, and make sure that all who are in the home are following the flu prevention measures listed above.
If you’re sick stay home:
While sometimes the contraction of influenza is unavoidable, it is imperative to stay home if you to become sick. Unless you are going to see your doctor, it’s recommended that those who are infected with the flu avoid public spaces to reduce the spread of the virus.
Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?
The first line of defense against the flu is getting vaccinated, but unlike other illnesses, there are many different strains of the influenza virus. This constant change in the virus, coupled with the body’s natural decline in immunity over time, makes it essential to get a new flu vaccination each year before the flu season starts.
Can I contract the flu from a flu shot?
This is a common misconception. You cannot contract influenza from the flu vaccine. However, the flu vaccine does not work right away. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the proper antibodies to protect against the flu. Therefore the CDC recommends vaccination before the flu begins to spread through your community.
If you think you or a loved one might have the flu come to see us at one of our locations in Plano or Frisco. Each Medco ER & Urgent Care facility is equipped to diagnose, test, and treat minor to severe flu-like symptoms and related conditions under one roof, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.