Spring has arrived, and the nation’s emergency departments will be full of people with conditions relating to asthma and allergies, spring cleaning injuries and more. It’s important for you to know the signs of a severe allergic reaction and to avoid housework hazards that can lead to emergencies.
“Along with April showers and May flowers, spring tends to bring more people to the emergency department,” said Paul Kivela, MD, MBA, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Conditions like asthma and allergies are manageable for most people but they can easily become life-threatening. Minimize your risk by limiting your exposure to known triggers, carrying your medicines with you if needed, and developing an action plan for asthma and allergic reactions with your care provider.”
Asthma sends about 1.8 million people to the emergency room annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In most instances, asthma is manageable. However, it is time to go to the ER when:
- Symptoms do not improve quickly after the use of rescue inhalers
- Straining to breathe or inability to complete a sentence without pausing for breath
- Lips or fingernails turn blue
As you head to picnics in the park or to the nearest patio, keep in mind that anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is most commonly caused food including peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish. It is estimated that a food allergy sends somebody to the emergency room every three minutes. Insect bites or stings are another common cause. Anaphylactic reactions may start with a tingling or itching sensation or a strange metallic taste in your mouth. Symptoms may develop within minutes, but life-threatening reactions may take up to several hours to appear.
Seek emergency care right away if you, or somebody you know, experiences any combination of these symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Swelling of the tongue, throat, nasal passages or face
- Welts, hives, itchiness, redness on the skin, lips, eyelids or other areas of the body
- Bluish skin, especially the lips or nail beds (or grayish in darker complexions)
- Nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting/diarrhea
- Heart palpitations
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Confusion, slurred speech
- Dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, fainting or unconsciousness
If a person is experiencing anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately. While you wait for help to arrive:
- Lay the person flat and elevate the feet.
- Administer self-injectable epinephrine if available (e.g., EpiPen)
- Check for a medical tag, bracelet or necklace that may identify anaphylactic triggers.
Spring cleaning can also be a risky proposition this time of year, especially for those intrepid “do-it-yourself” types. To lower your risk of injury in the house or outside, review the appropriate safety protocol and keep your tools, machines and equipment clean and in good working condition.
Falls can be a common cause of injury, particularly if you are trimming trees, cleaning gutters or painting the house. If you are using a ladder, make sure it is on firm ground before climbing. And consider putting the phone down. “Skip the selfie,” said Dr. Kivela. “Too many falls happen when people are distracted or multi-tasking.”
“Enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, go ahead and tackle those projects that you put off all winter,” said Dr. Kivela. “Be safe and be prepared, we know you don’t want to spend a nice spring day in the emergency room. But, if you need us, we will be there ready to help.”
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
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