Babysitting: Dealing With Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions usually are due to foods, medicine, insect stings, pollen, and a few other substances. Most of these reactions aren't serious.

However, severe allergic reactions do happen and can be life threatening. They should be treated immediately.

Possible signs and symptoms of a mild allergic reaction:

  • itchiness and red bumps on the body (hives)
  • slight swelling
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes

Possible signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction:

  • swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • difficulty breathing

What to Do

If a child has an allergic reaction:

  • Call the child's parents immediately. Ask them if you should give the child any kind of medicine, such as an antihistamine.
  • If the child needs injectable epinephrine (like an EpiPen), follow the instructions given to you by the parents on how to use it. Call 911 and then the child's parent(s) after administering the epinephrine.
  • Call 911 immediately if you don't have injectable epinephrine.

To help prevent allergic reactions:

  • Have the child avoid substances that are known to cause an allergic reaction.
  • Ask the child's parent(s) to show you how to give an over-the-counter or doctor-prescribed medication, just in case an allergic reaction happens.
  • Know where the allergy medicines (like an EpiPen) are kept, and bring them along during any outings.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: October 2010

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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