Angioedema: Care Instructions

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Angioedema is swelling in the deep layers of the skin. Swelling can also happen in the tissues that line your mouth, throat, and other organs. Angioedema can sometimes occur along with hives. Hives are an allergic reaction in the outer layers of the skin.

Angioedema can range from mild to severe. Painful swelling can develop on the face and in other parts of the body. Swelling in the belly can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the inside of the throat can swell and make it hard to breathe.

Many things can cause this condition, including foods, insect bites, and medicines (such as aspirin and some blood pressure medicines). It also can run in families. Sometimes you may know what caused the reaction, but other times you may not know.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes. Some medicines used to treat angioedema can make you too sleepy to drive safely. Do not drive if you take medicine that may make you sleepy.
  • Avoid foods or medicine that may have triggered the swelling.
  • For comfort:
    • Try taking a cool bath. Or place a cool, wet towel on the swollen area.
    • Avoid hot baths and showers.
    • Wear loose clothing.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a shot of epinephrine to carry with you in case you have a severe reaction. Learn how to give yourself the shot and keep it with you at all times. Make sure it has not expired.

When should you call for help?

Give an epinephrine shot if:

  • You think you are having a severe allergic reaction.

After giving an epinephrine shot call 911, even if you feel better.

Call 911 if:

  • You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
    • Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • You have been given an epinephrine shot, even if you feel better.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Mild belly pain or nausea.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.