Anaphylaxis Signs & Symptoms – What it is and How a Child Might Describe It
Although I have a daughter with severe food allergies, I am not a doctor and this article is not medical advice.
The definition of anaphylaxis in the simplest form is some kind of harmful reaction to a food, an insect sting, or exposure to other types of allergens. Anaphylactic reactions often “sneak up” without notice, but understanding the signs and symptoms can teach you to recognize the “red flags” before they become a bigger problem.
Anaphylaxis is a whole body reaction, where after being exposed to an allergen, the body becomes sensitized to that allergen. When that allergen is re-introduced into the body, the body produces histamines to fight it. It is during this reaction that the bodies’ outside signals show what is happening on the inside.
An anaphylactic reaction could begin with tingling sensations, itching anywhere on the body, hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, swelling of the throat, coughing with increased intensity, diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, nausea, swelling of the mouth and lips, watery or puffy eyes, or difficulty swallowing. It could also include skin redness and irritation, splotchy skin, confusion, anxiety, light-headedness, nasal congestion, and slurred speech.
Anaphylactic symptoms may be mild with only itching, or severe in combination with difficulty breathing, hives, and other symptoms. The symptoms can begin within seconds of a food being ingested, or show up two hours later. They can appear and disappear quickly, then come back several hours after the incident.
In some circumstances, anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated properly and with quick action.
Children may not be able to tell adults what the specific allergy or reaction may be, and precious time can be wasted if adults do not immediately understand that the child is having a reaction to something.
Children may describe these allergic reactions as the food being spicy (when it is not), the tongue being hot, their mouth feeling funny, or like something is poking or itching their tongue. They could also say it feels like a frog is in their throat, their lips feel tight, like there are bugs in there, or complain that their throat feels thick. Or, simple observations of other signs will tell you.
If at any point you notice any of these signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis or see your child having an anaphylactic reaction, follow your doctor’s instructions on handling the situation. When in doubt, call 911 and take your child to the Emergency Room.
For help with communicating your child’s food allergies and to download 12 Pre-written Allergy Letters for your communication plan (including the Emergency Allergy Plan that describes in detail how your child may describe an allergic reaction), visit the website below.