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Sinclair Cares: Handling allergy emergencies during a pandemic

"If you inject epinephrine, you're not better and you're not comfortable, then call 9-1-1," he said. "We're not saying not to do that. It's really just a judgment call at the time. And also, you have to discuss this with your own physician." (SBG Photo)
"If you inject epinephrine, you're not better and you're not comfortable, then call 9-1-1," he said. "We're not saying not to do that. It's really just a judgment call at the time. And also, you have to discuss this with your own physician." (SBG Photo)

San Antonio (WOAI) — Every year, 200,000 Americans need emergency care for allergic reactions to food.

New, suggested guidelines were just released to help people manage severe reactions at home and avoid hospitals packed with COVID-19 patients.

Pamela Hughes nearly lost her son, Wyatt, when he was three.

He got a hold of some peanut candy and went into anaphylactic shock.

"By the time I pulled up to the emergency room," she explained. "He was in his car seat with his eyes rolled back, gasping for air like a fish out of water."

Wyatt pulled through and is a healthy teenager now -- but because of COVID-19 -- some parents are concerned about exposing their kids inside an emergency room.

"Originally, what we told patients, if you have an acute allergic reaction, give yourself epinephrine, call 9-1-1 and activate emergency medical services in the E.R.," said Dr. Casale. "Now, there is reluctance."

Dr. Thomas Casale is the chief medical advisor for Food Allergy and Education -- or F.A.R.E.

He helped create the new guidelines just published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology -- after parents contacted him concerned about the virus.

Step by step, it shows you how to manage anaphylaxis at home.

If you start having these symptoms, the first thing you do is sit down and inject your epinephrine," said Dr. Casale. "Second thing you do is ask for help from a neighbor or from someone they live with."

"I thought that was really clever," said Pamela. "Whatever is going to make that easy...that's something I hadn't thought of."

If the symptoms subside, the guidelines suggest following up with your allergy doctor immediately.

If they don't, they suggest administering *another* dose epinephrine and then call 9-1-1.

And that's the part that concerns Pamela.

"I can tell you, as a mom, if I have to use two epi-pens on my child who cannot breathe, we're going to a hospital."

Dr. Casale says -- that's absolutely fine -- and emphasizes these are only suggestions.

No one knows your child better than you.

"If you inject epinephrine, you're not better and you're not comfortable, then call 9-1-1," he said. "We're not saying not to do that. It's really just a judgment call at the time. And also, you have to discuss this with your own physician."

Either way, Dr. Casale says, it's vital you plan before an emergency happens -- especially in the middle of a pandemic.