Allergy Alert

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Health and Safety Allergy Alert
Combat the discomfort and potentially life-threatening effects from insect bites, seasonal allergies, and poisonous plants.

As we take our music outdoors in the spring and summer, be sure to recognize and provide first aid for mild to life-threatening allergies.

The human body has a naturally occurring immune response, called a histamine reaction, which causes inflammation. Most people have experienced this type of mild pain, itching, and swelling. Insect bites, seasonal allergies, or exposure to poisonous plants (ivy, oak, or sumac) are among the most common non-food allergens.

Over-the-Counter Aid

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine that can be used to treat mild allergic reactions. Taking an oral antihistamine will reduce the immune response and inflammation over time. Topical itch creams that contain hydrocortisone or other active ingredients could also be used. Cold compresses relieve pain and swelling.

Prescribed Epinephrine

If an allergic reaction causes difficulty breathing or swelling to the face or neck, call 911 immediately! Anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction that may involve shortness of breath, ineffective breathing, or unconsciousness. Epinephrine is a prescribed drug that can be used to treat anaphylaxis. As an alpha- and beta-adrenergic agonist, epinephrine works by relaxing muscles in the lungs while also constricting blood vessels. The effect of epinephrine eases breathing and regulates blood pressure.

An epinephrine auto injector may be prescribed and carried by someone who has experienced a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis in the past. An auto injector uses a spring-loaded needle to release a metered dose of the drug into the muscle, often the outside of the upper thigh. An auto injector is designed to automatically retract the needle to prevent accidental needle sticks. Even if signs and symptoms subside after the injection, a victim should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare professional. Epinephrine is relatively short acting, and its effects may wear off over time. In some cases, the side effect of a heart arrhythmia requires careful monitoring.

Medication Dispensing

Let’s bring back the fanny pack! Members prescribed an auto injector should be within an arm’s reach of it at all times. Staff members should complete a basic first aid course at least every two years. The use of an auto injector may be included in the course if permitted by state law and health regulations.

All OTC and prescription drugs should only be used as directed. If signs and symptoms do not resolve, or side effects are experienced, consult a physician. Minors should not be administered OTC or prescription drugs without the knowledge and expressed consent of a parent/guardian, so have a medication form signed by parents at the start of each marching season. All injuries, illnesses, and first aid provided should always be documented in accordance with state health regulations and organizational policy.

About the author

Justin Eberly

Justin Eberly is a volunteer firefighter and active emergency medical technician in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He presents emergency services educational and training programs locally and nationally. Eberly has played trumpet for 15 years, previously performing with Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) University. He also serves as a marching band instructor.

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