Severe Allergic Reaction Treatment

Call 911

For a minor allergic reaction, see Allergic Reaction Treatment.

1. Seek emergency care

Get immediate help if the person has these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) even if there are no symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
  • Hoarseness or trouble speaking
  • Swollen lips, tongue, or throat
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse
  • Skin that itches, tingles, swells, or develops raised red areas (hives)
  • Anxiety or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

2. Inject Epinephrine Immediately

Inject immediately at first sign of anaphylaxis. The injection cannot harm them if it is a false alarm, but could save their life. If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan from a doctor for injecting epinephrine and other emergency measures, follow it.

Otherwise, if the person carries an epinephrine shot -- it's a good idea to always carry two shots -- and one is available:

  • Inject epinephrine if the person is unable to.
  • If the person has a history of anaphylaxis, don't wait for signs of a severe reaction to inject epinephrine.
  • Read and follow patient instructions carefully.
  • Inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh. Avoid injecting into a vein or buttock muscles.
  • Do not inject medicine into hands or feet, which can cause tissue damage. If this happens, notify the emergency room staff.
  • The person may need more than one injection if there’s no improvement after the first. The injection may be repeated again in 5-15 minutes.

3. Do CPR if the Person Stops Breathing

4. Follow Up

  • Make sure that someone stays with the person for 24 hours after anaphylaxis in case of another attack.
  • Ensure the person is then seen at a nearby hospital.
  • Report the reaction to the person's doctor.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 28, 2019



American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Cleveland Clinic: "Over the Counter: Choosing the Right Allergy Medications."

KidsHealth: "Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)."

Family "Anaphylaxis."

Severe Allergic Reaction Information from eMedicineHealth.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.