Kids are experiencing delayed allergic reactions

Allergies among children have steadily increased over the last two decades, making it more important for parents, teachers and caregivers to know how to handle allergic reactions. Now, a new study sheds some light on a little known risk – secondary reactions.

A secondary reaction is when the initial symptoms are treated and gone, but then unexpectedly return hours later without any new exposure to allergens. Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario found that 75 percent of secondary reactions occur within six hours of the first, and are more likely to happen after more severe first reactions.

“The most important thing to do in the face of an allergic reaction is to respond quickly,” says Dr. Jenna Podjasek, immunologist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Although symptoms may look mild at the start, they can become life threatening in a matter of moments. Initial symptoms can be easy to miss – a rash, a sudden runny nose – but may progress quickly. If in doubt, administer medication and seek emergency care.”

According to the study, those most at risk of a secondary allergic reaction include children 6 to 9 years old, children who needed more than one injection of epinephrine, and children who did not receive an immediate injection. Among the children in the study, at least 50 percent of their secondary reactions were serious enough to require another dose of emergency epinephrine.

“It is important that we educate people on this issue, especially families that are facing their first allergic reaction and just beginning this journey with their child,” Dr. Podjasek says. “It is vital that parents and caregivers closely monitor the child not only immediately after the reaction, but for several hours following.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, symptoms of a mild reaction can include hives (especially over the neck and face), itching, nasal congestion, rashes or watery, red eyes.

If you or a child experience any of the following symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, seek medical help as quickly as possible:

  • Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Repetitive cough
  • Shock or circulatory collapse
  • Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
  • Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to talk or breathe
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale or blue coloring of skin
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Anaphylaxis

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