SSM Health Medical Minute – Parental warning: Severe allergic reactions

Data pix.

ST. LOUIS - A warning for parents. Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction from exposure to tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, eggs or mile or insect stings. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction, giving them antihistamines like Benedryl or Claritin can delay their severe reactions and therefore the emergency treatment they need.

Anaphylaxis symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen, however, it can occur a half-hour or longer after exposure. Researchers reviewed the medical records of young patients, aged 8 months to 20 years, who were admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit for treatment of anaphylaxis between July 2015 and January 2019.

A new study found that 72% of patients who took antihistamines at home delayed seeking medical care, compared to 25% who didn’t take antihistamines.

Dr. Justin Rapoff, an emergency room physician at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in Lake St. Louis, says knowing the signs of anaphylaxis is critical. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Constriction of your airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

If you see these warning signs, bring your child to the Emergency Room. Do not give them over-the-counter antihistamines. ER doctors will administer any number of steroid shots and have access to the EpiPen. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms will go away. If the person having the attack carries an epinephrine autoinjector, administer it right away. Even if symptoms improve after the injection, you still need to go to an emergency room to make sure symptoms don't recur, even without more exposure to your allergen. This second reaction is called biphasic anaphylaxis.

Over-the-counter antihistamines are very good at relieving minor symptoms such as swelling, rash, or inflammation. But seek medical care or the emergency room if you question any of the signs or symptoms to be more severe.

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital has some of the best pediatric experts in the St. Louis region. You can access Cardinal Glennon pediatricians Close to Home without going to the main campus. The specially trained doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, and specialists are also at hospitals, emergency rooms, and doctors' office practices around the metro area.

Cardinal Glennon Close to Home pediatricians can be found in St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Louis City, Central Missouri, Southeast Missouri, and Illinois. Click here to find your nearest location.

For urgent needs, you can check your child into an ER now with 24-hour SSM Health Cardinal Glennon coverage.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Wednesday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.​

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.