Know When to Use an Antihistamine or an EpiPen for Allergies – Understanding The Severity of an Allergy

Having an allergy can be inconvenient; you have to police what you eat and always have the right medication on you just in case the worst happens. It’s a common misconception that allergies are curable. In fact, the opposite is actually the case, with minor allergies developing into severe allergies over time.

A recent health study found that 1 in every 13 American children suffer from food allergies, so if it’s not your child then it’s your child’s friend. Therefore, it is essential that we know how to treat any allergies at the right time with the correct medication – food allergies, especially.

Allergy severity scale

Allergic reactions get worse over time, which means that you need to take your medicine as soon as possible. The severity varies with each individual and the time of exposure. If a person has had several reactions to an allergen (food), then their reaction will be extremely severe as reactions are always more severe than the last one.

Stage 1:

Starting with abdominal cramps, vomiting and nausea, you can even suffer from diarrhea. Hives and itching are common among allergy patients which can eventually lead to a case of eczema or dermatitis. There is also an increased tendency to sneeze and cough, accompanied by wheezing

Stage 2:

Severe allergies can be identified by more extreme respiratory symptoms like laryngeal edema. If you see that someone is unable to breathe and needs help, that means the reaction is spreading. Uterine cramps and vomiting will also be common. There is also swelling around the mouth, including the tongue.

Stage 3:

Patients whose conditions deteriorate further can suffer from a complete respiratory failure and even lose consciousness. As the allergy spreads, more and more organs will shut down. There is also a psychological reaction as the patient begins to feel helpless and confused as to what is happening around him.

Stage 4:

Anaphylactic shock is the most severe reaction that can be caused by food allergy. It leads to the failure of the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. When the cardiovascular system also shuts down, it can lead to a case of hypertension that can cause death.

Antihistamines VS. EpiPens – Understanding the Difference

Having the correct medication for your food allergy can make the difference between life and death. The market is filled with different drug options for allergies, but they can be broadly divided into two types. Antihistamines and EpiPens are most commonly used to treat allergies, but they should be used based on the severity of the allergic reaction.

How do Antihistamines Work?

When your body is exposed to an allergen it produces histamines to protect itself, and because of them you body has reactions like a running nose and watery eyes, or mouth swelling. They can also lead itching and rashes. As the name suggests, antihistamines are designed to eliminate and block the histamines to alleviate the allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are often combined with decongestants for maximum effect.

Antihistamines can combat mild allergy symptoms which include sneezing, hives, and coughing. Containing diphenhydramine and cetirizine, they also work in case of hay fever, stings, and conjunctivitis. However, antihistamines are not equipped to treat anaphylaxis which means that they are not useful if your allergy is more intense than Stage 2. No particular antihistamine is better in terms of efficiency, but there are non-drowsy varieties.

EpiPens: How does Epinephrine Work?

Epinephrine is the most important medication when treating life-threatening allergic reactions, which can be any symptom shown in Stages 3 and 4. It is the only treatment for anaphylaxis and can be easily injected using devices like the EpiPen and needs to be administered as quickly as possible. In fact, if a person exhibits any symptom of anaphylaxis then they need epinephrine ASAP. Any delay in application can lead to death. In case they don’t respond to the first dosage, then you should administer a second dosage. A patient should be immediately admitted to a hospital after for further treatment.

If you have a severe allergy, then you should carry your EpiPen with you at all times. Since it is a matter of life and death, you shouldn’t be taking the risk. While EpiPens have side effects like headaches, anxiety, and palpitations, there is no better solution for alleviating Stage 3 allergic symptoms. It should not be used to treat mild symptoms.

It is best that you know how to treat allergic reactions before they become worse. If you take the wrong medication at the right time, it can lead to deterioration instead of the opposite.

Just remember, you can use antihistamines for mild symptoms and epinephrine in case of a more dangerous reaction.

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