seasonal allergies and airway management


It’s that time of year again, as May flowers are blooming, trees are dropping pollen and seasonal allergies are causing coughing, sneezing and a host of other uncomfortable symptoms. Maybe you can already verify it, but experts predict that 2022 will be a particularly bad year for allergies, as allergy season is getting longer each year and symptoms continue to worsen across the country. 


Allergy season usually lasts from early spring (March) to fall (October), but this year, pollen counts started rising in January. If rising pollen rates are any indication of what we can expect for the rest of the season, it’s clear that all patients and health care providers will have to remain vigilant in monitoring and treating allergy symptoms before, during and after they arise. 


We’ve put together a guide to help you get ahead of some of the worst of it this allergy season and provide safe and effective treatment for patients suffering from a range of allergy symptoms and allergic reactions, which can grow from annoyances into full-blown emergencies.


Common Allergy Symptoms  


Generally, allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance it deems harmful, such as certain drugs, foods, pet hair and much more. Not everyone experiences them, and not all people react the same to allergens. There are several common allergy symptoms that EMS responders should be able to identify when determining whether a patient is experiencing allergies and the severity of their allergies. 


These include: 


  • Rhinitis: itchy, runny or blocked nose 
  • Incessant sneezing 
  • Conjunctivitis: itchy, red, watering eyes
  • Hives or skin redness
  • Cough, wheezing or chest tightness
  • Swelling of lips, eyes, hands or face
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea 


Allergic Reactions and Emergencies 


Allergies exist on a spectrum ranging from minor to life-threatening, with the most severe type of allergic reaction being anaphylaxis, a body-wide reaction that can be fatal. Anaphylactic allergies typically develop in childhood, but it’s possible for them to appear later in life, even in response to a substance an individual has repeatedly consumed or been exposed to. 


Anaphylaxis occurs within minutes of exposure to an allergen and results in airway obstruction and the rapid closing of the airway. If symptoms are not detected fast enough and the right medicine is not administered immediately, the chances of survival will be bleak. 


Early signs of anaphylaxis include: 


  • Swelling of the throat and mouth 
  • Difficulty breathing; wheezing, gasping for air 
  • Blue skin or lips
  • Collapsing or losing consciousness 
  • Low blood pressure or changes in pulse 
  • Nausea and vomiting  


Secondary anaphylaxis can occur hours after an initial anaphylactic reaction — this is called a biphasic anaphylactic reaction. 


Airway Management and Anaphylaxis 


Rapid airway management is critical for treating anaphylaxis. Clearing the airway and providing oxygen can help stabilize the patient for transport and substantially lower their risk of death. 


In addition to administering epinephrine and IV fluids, it’s vital that providers have appropriate portable suction devices on hand to clear airways of any fluids, particulates or substances restricting breathing. Suctioning is also an important step before performing an intubation procedure. In these emergencies, portable devices should be used to deliver treatment directly to the patient where they are — moving a patient in anaphylaxis may waste valuable time.


Two of SSCOR’s portable suction devices, the SSCOR Quickdraw and S-SCORT III Portable Suction Unit, were specifically designed for first responders treating patients in anaphylaxis and other airway emergencies. 


Their features include: 


SSCOR Quickdraw: 


  • Powered by readily available AAA alkaline batteries or SSCOR alkaline battery pack for extended run time 
  • Fits in an airway bag or first-in kit so it’s easily accessible at any moment 
  • Can function as an efficient handheld suction or a small, powerful and effective traditional suction pump 


S-SCORT III Portable Suction Unit: 


  • Powerful, adjustable vacuum that weighs only 7 pounds
  • Powered by a reliable internal sealed lead acid battery, maintained by an AC/DC charger or DC power cord 
  • Key components are encased in protective foam for added durability


Choosing the right portable suction equipment should be a top priority for you and your team, as it will help with mitigating severe allergy symptoms for patients and reversing potentially fatal allergic reactions like anaphylaxis. Read more about SSCOR’s EMS Products and how they can help you care for patients experiencing allergies, anaphylaxis and other airway emergencies. 


S-SCORT III portable hospital suction for ambulances and first responders