Allergic Reactions

What is an allergy?

An allergy is when the body has a reaction to a trigger. Allergic reactions usually happen within a few minutes of contact but can be delayed by a few hours.

Most allergic reactions are mild, but more severe reactions can occur. Sometimes mild reactions can develop quickly into a more severe reaction.

The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis (ana-fill-axis) and can be life threatening. The signs of this are in the red box below.  Children with severe allergic reactions need emergency hospital treatment.  Ring 999 immediately for help if your child is having a severe reaction. 

If your child has a mild allergic reaction immediately contact your GP or call NHS 111.

Common triggers for allergy are:

  • Foods such as nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs and some fruits
  • Medicines
  • Bee stings
  • Wasp stings
  • Latex (a type of rubber found in some rubber gloves)

This advice is the same for children with anaphylaxis.

If your child has any of the following:

  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, tongue, lips or throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Hoarse voice
  • Harsh noise as they breathe in (stridor)
  • Wheezing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Has laboured, rapid breathing or they are working hard to breathe, drawing in of the muscles below their lower ribs, at their neck or between their ribs (recession)
  • Dizziness, fainting episode or collapse
  • Pale or floppy

You need urgent help.

Phone 999 or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency department

If your child has any of the following:

  • Runny nose or eyes
  • Itchy skin or a raised rash (hives)
  • Tingling mouth
  • Sneezing
  • Lip, face or eye swelling

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 .

If possible give your child antihistamine.

We recognise that access to a health care professional may take time. If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to your GP or to NHS 111, then consider taking them to your nearest A&E

If none of the above are present:

  • Care for your child at home
  • Speak to your local community pharmacist for advice 

Self care

Contact your local community pharmacist

Continue providing your child’s care at home

If you are concerned about your child, call NHS 111

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

What can I do?

If you are worried that your child is having a severe allergic reaction, you need to call 999 for an ambulance immediately and state anaphylaxis (ana-fill-axis).

  • If your child has an adrenaline autoinjector (Epi-pen) use it immediately
  • Remove the trigger which caused the reaction if you can
  • Sit them up if they are having difficulty breathing
  • Do not stand them up or move them
  • You can give a second dose of adrenaline (Epi-pen) after 5 minutes

If you have had to use your child’s autoinjector (Epi-pen) then they should always go to hospital for further observation.

If your child is having a mild to moderate allergic reaction, give them an antihistamine medicine to help with the symptoms.

If your child has had an allergic reaction you should avoid the trigger whenever possible.

Contact your GP if your child has had an allergic reaction.

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Further information

Allergy UK has information on anaphylaxis 

Beat Anaphylaxis has information for children, young people, families and professionals

Itchy Sneezy Wheezy has a series of videos on food allergy, anaphylaxis and how to use an epipen

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice on a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents, carers and young people more information about other organisations that might also be able to help.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare, and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment, and many have private consultation areas. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.


Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 0300 373 0944

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5 to19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and, or emotional health needs.


Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse. Phone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses 01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses (0 to 19 service) 0300 373 0944 (local rate number)

Leeds School Nurses 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses 030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses 0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of 5. If your child is under 5 years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand. Watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance