Christmas is a time when we have all sorts of things in the house that we would never consider having at any other time of year – no, I don’t mean Uncle Bert and Auntie Susan, they can stay for now – but what about that tree, and the holly, not to mention all the exotic food and drink we treat ourselves to? Exposure to things like these can occasionally lead to all sorts of strange reactions, from asthma attacks to allergies, or even anaphylaxis.
Most allergies tend to be topical, affecting only the skin, and can often be dealt with by antihistamine creams or even mild hay-fever tablets.
An asthma attack can range from wheeziness and a slight tightness of the chest, to a life threatening respiratory problem. If you can identify the source of the irritation, remove it, or move the patient to another room. Get them into a comfortable position – sitting, leaning forward on a table is often best. Make sure they have the best quality air possible, so consider opening doors and windows (cold can be a trigger too, though, so consider this). Remove, or loosen any tight clothing – collar, tie, belt, braces, the wet-suit Santa brought, etc. If they have their own asthma medication, assist them to take it. If the situation is getting worse, or if they are becoming distressed, seek medical attention.
Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening condition that can develop rapidly. Early symptoms are often a tingling of the lips and tongue, followed by a rash spreading from the chest to the neck and face, soon followed by swelling about the face and mouth, anxiety, and difficulty breathing.
Sometimes there can be tingling in the extremities and stomach cramps. Don’t waste time – dial 999 and say, “Anaphylaxis.” In the meantime, treat the casualty as for asthma, above, including asthma medication, if they have their own. If they have an auto-injector (Epi-Pen, Jext) help them to use it.
If they lose consciousness put them in the recovery position. If they stop breathing – do CPR.
You might have to work quite hard to get air into their swollen airway.