What to Do If Your Child is Having a Severe Allergic Reaction

Watching your child suffer from an allergic reaction can be a frightening experience for any parent. You may feel powerless and anxious, uncertain about how to respond effectively. Allergies are not just a minor inconvenience — they’re an overreaction of our body’s immune system to usually harmless substances.

This overreaction can manifest as mild symptoms like sneezing or a rash for some children, but for others, exposure to an allergen can trigger a severe, life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

In this guide, we will discuss what steps you should take if your child is having a severe allergic reaction.

Identify the Symptoms

Imagine you’re travelling with your two and 3-year-old kids. They are sitting quietly in their convertible car seats, and suddenly, one of them starts crying. You pull over and find that your two-year-old’s face is swollen, and her skin is covered in hives. She also has trouble breathing.

Understanding and recognizing the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction in children is crucial for prompt and appropriate action. Every child may exhibit different symptoms, but there are some common signs to look out for. 

By being aware of these symptoms, you can quickly assess the severity of the situation and take the necessary steps to ensure your child’s safety.

Signs to Look For:

  • Breathing difficulties: If your child seems to be gasping for breath, wheezing, or expressing a sensation of tightness in their chest, these could be signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Swelling: Rapid swelling, especially around the face, lips, tongue, or throat, can indicate a severe allergic reaction and requires immediate attention.
  • Skin changes: Hives, a rash, or itchy patches of skin can often accompany an allergic reaction. These skin changes can appear anywhere on the body and vary in size and intensity.
  • Digestive discomfort: Sometimes, people overlook vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain as symptoms of an allergic reaction. However, we should not ignore these symptoms.
  • Light-headedness or fainting: If your child seems disoriented, dizzy, or loses consciousness, it could be a sign of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • Rapid heartbeat: An unusually fast or irregular heartbeat can also signal a severe allergic reaction.

Administer Medication

In the storm of a severe allergic reaction, administering the right medication at the right time can be the lifeboat that keeps your child safe. If you suspect anaphylaxis, administer epinephrine immediately, as it is the first line of treatment for severe allergic reactions.

  • Familiarise yourself with epi-pens: If your child has a prescribed epi-pen, ensure you know how to use it. Periodic practice can help ensure you’re ready when it matters most.
  • Inject without delay: The outer thigh is the best place for the injection. Press the epi-pen against your child’s thigh with a firm, swift motion until you hear a click. This sound indicates the delivery of the medication.
  • Massage gently: After injecting, massage the area for 10 seconds to help the medication spread into the muscle.
  • Always seek professional medical help: It’s crucial to remember that giving epinephrine is not a substitute for emergency medical care. Always call for help, even if your child seems to improve after the injection.

Call for Emergency Medical Assistance

In the face of a severe allergic reaction, reaching out for emergency medical assistance is critical. Remember, every minute counts, and getting professional help on the scene as soon as possible can make a huge difference.

When Calling for Help:

  • Dial your local emergency number: Make sure you know the emergency number for your area — this is almost always 000.
  • Stay composed and clear: When speaking to the dispatcher, stay calm. Clearly explain that your child is having a severe allergic reaction and provide all relevant information, such as known allergies and any medication given.

Stay Calm and Comfort Your Child

During a crisis, our children often look to us for reassurance. Even though it might be hard, try to stay calm. Your composure can provide comfort and stability for your child during this frightening time

Speak soothingly, keep your child as comfortable as possible, and reassure them that help is coming. 

Follow Up with Your Doctor

After the immediate crisis has passed, it’s crucial to follow up with your child’s doctor or allergist. They can provide further guidance, adjust your child’s allergy management plan if necessary, and answer any questions you may have. 

Remember, anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Even if symptoms improve after administering epinephrine, seeking professional medical care is essential.

Prevent Future Reactions

Your goal becomes prevention once your child has experienced a severe allergic reaction. It involves identifying and avoiding the allergens that trigger reactions, educating those around your child about their allergies, and having a clear action plan in case of future reactions.

Preventing future allergic reactions might involve changes to your child’s environment, diet, or routine. Contact your doctor, support groups, and other resources for help navigating this new path.


Managing a child’s severe allergic reactions can be daunting, but it is entirely manageable with the right knowledge, tools, and support. Understanding the symptoms, reacting swiftly, and seeking immediate professional assistance can make a difference in ensuring your child’s well-being in the face of an allergic reaction.

After the crisis, following up with a healthcare professional and preventative measures can shield your child from future allergic episodes. The key is to stay informed and prepared, taking quick action when necessary. 

With these steps in place, you can provide the best possible care for your child and help them live a happy and healthy life despite their allergies.