When to go to the ER for an Allergic Reaction

Allergic Reactions

Apr 19, 2021


If you’ve ever wondered when to go to the ER for an allergic reaction, odds are you are one of the 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies every year. Though allergies are a common chronic condition, allergic reactions can be dangerous or even life-threatening for some. The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction will vary depending on the type of reaction that occurs, but knowing when to seek medical help could save a life. 

If you or a loved one experiences any of the symptoms noted below as a result of an allergic reaction, call 911 and head to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

What is considered a serious allergic reaction? 

Since there are so many different types of allergic reactions, symptoms can range from mild to severe and often vary from one person to the next. Typical allergic reaction symptoms can include irritated eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itching, hives, cough, and swelling. However, more severe reactions can occur, with additional symptoms. 

Anaphylaxis –– also known as anaphylactic shock –– is considered one of the most dangerous and life-threatening severe forms of allergic reactions. During anaphylaxis, when the person is exposed to the allergen, the immune system releases chemicals to fight off the allergen that can cause the body to go into shock and become hypersensitive. This can lead to heart and/or brain damage, or even death.  

Anaphylactic shock can cause the following severe allergic reaction symptoms to occur:

  • Swelling of the lips or tongue that indicates throat closure  
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • A weak or rapid pulse 
  • Severe skin rashes 
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Painful cramps 

Whether the person is showing a few or all of these symptoms, seek medical help. Anaphylactic shock can be quite serious and life-threatening if not treated immediately. Read our article on what to do when someone is in anaphylactic shock for more information.

How long does it take for a serious allergic reaction to happen? 

The stages of an allergic reaction depend on how severely allergic you are to that particular allergen. In most cases, anaphylactic shock can occur within minutes after contact with the allergen has been made. 

The symptoms for mild or more common allergens including an allergic reaction to bug bites can appear within seconds to minutes, whereas lactose intolerance symptoms may not show up for at least 30 minutes after contact with the allergen. 

Though these common reactions can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications or an allergy shot, more severe reactions need to be treated by a medical professional at an ER immediately. 

How do they treat allergic reactions in the ER? 

If the symptoms above are being exhibited, call 911 or take the person to the nearest emergency room immediately. Do not wait and see if the symptoms go away on their own.

If you have an epinephrine autoinjector, use it as soon as possible. This is an urgent situation and waiting could be life-threatening. If the symptoms start to subside after using the Epipen, go to the emergency room anyway to prevent biphasic anaphylaxis.

Once you’re at the ER, A medical professional at Complete Care can see patients within minutes to treat a reaction. Depending on the severity of the reaction, some patients may require additional adrenaline doses or other types of treatment to help restore oxygen or open breathing airways. 

In the case of anaphylactic shock, it’s typical for patients who experience these types of reactions to need up to 4 hours of observation by the medical staff. This can ensure that no other reactions (such as biphasic anaphylaxis) will occur. 

Our doctor may also prescribe some additional medications to further improve your condition. These may include inhalers, OTC medication, and antihistamines. 

Get 24/7 Emergency Care for Allergic Reactions at Complete Care 

Now that you’re more aware of when to go to the ER for an allergic reaction, it’s crucial that you act quickly when someone is experiencing severe allergic reaction symptoms. Complete Care’s emergency facilities are fully equipped with a professional medical staff that can aid you with any allergy-related emergency. 

We’re open 24/7, don’t require appointments, and (unlike hospital-based ERs) can typically see patients within minutes. 

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs). Whether you have an allergy-related emergency or a question including what to do if a child has an allergic reaction, we will take complete care of you.

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