Severe Allergic Reactions

An allergic reaction is not only inconvenient, but it can be life-threatening without immediate medical treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, then it is essential to visit the nearest ER as soon as possible.

Symptoms of a Severe Allergic Reaction

It is common for people to have mild allergic reactions due to seasonal pollen or animals. In some cases, a patient has a strong reaction to an environmental compound. Symptoms might include difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest tightness, hives, wheezing, increased pulse rate, swelling in the throat, lips, tongue, or face, diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of an allergic reaction and can be life-threatening if it blocks a person’s ability to breathe. This reaction is rare and requires immediate medical services. The symptoms usually start suddenly and intensify quickly, eventually leading to cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory distress, seizures, shock, and even death… which is why treatment should never be delayed.

What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?

When these symptoms are occurring, it means the body is overreacting to a substance and an attack is happening within the body. An allergen can be any product or compound that causes an immune system response. Common allergens include:

  • Insect stings, from wasps, bees, hornets, or fire ants
  • Latex
  • Food ingredients, such as peanuts, soy, eggs, fish, milk, or wheat
  • Medications, such as penicillin or other antibiotics

Why do some people suffering allergies while others don’t experience these reactions? It is suspected that certain people are hypersensitive because of genetic predispositions.

ER Treatment for Severe Allergic Reactions

When someone knows that they have a severe allergy, it is common to carry an epinephrine autoinjector (often called an “epi-pen”). Having this medication on-hand can save a person’s life if they are exposed to an allergy trigger. This injection provides the first aid that is needed, giving the person more time to get to medical treatment. It is always important to talk to a doctor, even if an injection is used, and the symptoms are starting to calm down.

If you are having the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and don’t have an epi-pen, then it is essential to either call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room right away for immediate treatment.

Initially, medications will be administered to counteract the allergic reaction. The doctor will likely recommend additional testing to identify your allergy triggers. It is important to know what is causing the symptoms if you experience a serious allergy response to food or something in the environment. Then, you can avoid the trigger to minimize the risk of an allergy emergency in the future.


People can experience a vast range of allergic reactions, from mild to severe. When you come into iCare, our team of physicians will determine whether your reaction should be treated in our urgent care or in the emergency room.

Mild symptoms often include sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, a rash, a runny nose, nasal congestion, or slight swelling. More severe symptoms can include the above reactions, combined with a tingling in the mouth, intense swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat, nausea and vomiting, chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, stomach pain, diarrhea, or vasodilation. For severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, this usually involves an epinephrine injection to relax the muscles in order to allow you to breathe. For less severe allergic reactions, treatment can involve allergy shots — usually for allergic asthma, insect stings, hay fever or other medications.


When you visit one of our iCare Emergency Room & Urgent Care locations, our medical team, led by an experienced ER physician will immediately assess your situation, employ life saving intervention as needed and provide a physical examination.  Your care team may perform laboratory testing from our on-site lab. Once you are diagnosed, a treatment plan will be provided based on severity of your condition and symptoms. In the event that a patient requires hospitalization or other procedures that we do not offer at iCare, we are able to transfer them to a hospital for admission.