How to Treat a Minor Allergic Reaction

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No one likes swelling up like a balloon.

I made a fun new discovery recently: I am allergic to feather down pillows. Went to sleep in a hotel bed with down pillows, woke up with my right eye swollen shut and body covered in hives. Minor allergic reactions are a very particular flavor of frustrating, especially when you weren’t previously aware of their existences. Many of these reactions are a result of your body’s immune systems overreacting to otherwise harmless allergens, so if you wanna be mad at someone, blame your body. When you’re done with that, get to fixing it.

Just to clarify real quick, this is only for minor reactions, with symptoms like non-hazardous swelling, itchy hives and rashes, and runny noses. If you or someone you know is experiencing full-on anaphylaxis, seek professional medical help immediately.

Now, the first order of business is treating any swelling or rashes. For swelling, get a cool, wet washcloth or medical cold compress and hold it to the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time. This’ll help combat the inflammation and reduce the severity of the swelling. For rashes and hives, apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or lotion to alleviate any burning or itchy feelings. If you think the allergen is on your clothes, remove and wash them immediately, and take a shower too. Don’t make that shower too hot, though, as hot water can aggravate a rash.

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Once you’re feeling less puffy and itchy, get yourself an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl. See, when your body detects an allergen, the mast cell, a component of your immune system, releases histamines to wash it away. Those histamines are what cause the reaction symptoms, so an antihistamine helps send the mast cell a signal to knock it off. Antihistamines can make you a bit sleepy, so hold off on taking them until you’re in a safe, nap-friendly place.

Keep applying treatment for any skin problems and follow the dosage instructions for your antihistamine, and the symptoms should subside in a few days. If symptoms persist or get worst, consult a doctor.