St John Ambulance, the nation’s leading first aid charity is bringing you some simple, but life saving, first aid tips – this week: recognising and dealing with allergic reactions.

Allergies develop when the body has an abnormal immune response to a normally harmless substance and mistakes it for a threat, like an infection, and tries to fight it off.  

A severe allergic reaction can develop within just a few seconds of the person coming into contact with the allergen. It can affect the whole body and, if not treated quickly enough, can potentially lead to death. This is called Anaphylaxis or Anaphylactic shock.  

These are the six key things to look for:  
•    In mild allergy there may be blotchy, itchy skin   
•    Itchy red eyes or nose   
•    In severe allergy there may be wheezing or difficulty breathing (they may complain that their chest ‘feels tight’)   
•    There may be swelling of the hands, feet or face, but the tongue and throat may also swell   
•    Anxiety   
•    Signs of shock  

What you need to do: 
If you think someone is having a severe allergic reaction, they may have some of the symptoms mentioned above or they may tell you they’ve been exposed to something they are allergic to. You need to get them emergency help as fast as you can (even if their symptoms are mild but they have been exposed to something to which they are severely allergic).   

•    Dial 999 or 112 straight away. Tell the emergency operator that you think someone is having a severe allergic reaction and give them any information you have about what may have triggered it (e.g. an insect sting, or certain food, like peanuts).   

•    If the person knows what they have a severe reaction to, they may have medication with them - an auto-injector (for example Epipen®, JEXT® or Emerade®). Check if they have one, and if they do, help them to use it or if you have training, give it. Remember, they still need medical help even if they have used their auto-injector.   

•    While waiting for help to arrive, help them into a comfortable sitting position, leaning forward slightly, to help their breathing.   

•    Monitor their condition. If they become unresponsive, open their airway, check breathing and prepare to treat someone who is unresponsive.   

NB: A second auto-injector can be used if there is no improvement or if the symptoms return.  

For more, free lifesaving advice, go to

Article supplied by Kate Rutsch