Epi Pens

Self-Administered Epinephrine
While there is no cure for anaphylaxis, using a self-administered, injection needle that contains adrenaline can often help combat symptoms. Often referred to as an epipen, this prescription needle contains a type of adrenaline, epinephrine, which is naturally produced by the body during times of heightened stress. When a person suffers an anaphylactic reaction, use of an epi pen can help the body receive a higher dose of this adrenaline much quicker.

First Signs of Reaction? Use It!
An epi pen should be given at the first sign of an allergic reaction despite how mild it may seem. Since symptoms can rapidly progress, a “wait-and-see” approach may prove to be fatal. After administering an epi pen, anaphylactic symptoms should begin to subside within 10 to 20 minutes. However, if there is no improvement in symptoms, a second dose should be administered. Additionally, the person who suffered the anaphylactic reaction should be taken to the hospital immediately to be checked out by a doctor.

The side effects and risks associated with proper use of an epi pen are fairly minimal. However, people taking other medications should check with their doctor about any possible complications that could occur. Also, it is imperative that an epi pen is administered properly to the outer thigh area (learn how below). Avoid injecting the epinephrine into the front and back of thighs and the buttocks area, as there is a greater risk of hitting a major blood vessel or nerves, which can be detrimental. It is important to note, though, that the use of an epi pen far outweighs any side effects and risks associated with it.

Epi Pen Care
An epipen should be carried by those who need them at all times. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can quickly become serious and even fatal, therefore no time should be wasted trying to find an epipen. People have died while running to get an epipen that was less than a hundred feet away. It is strongly recommended that two epipens be carried at all times in case a second dose is required or if you are more than 15 minutes away from a hospital.

Epipens are sensitive to light as well as extreme weather. They should not be refrigerated and should ideally be stored at temperatures between 59°F and 86°F (15°C to 30°C). An epipen should be kept in a needle proof container. There are a variety of protective epipen containers on the market. As well, you can purchase an epipen holder or an epipen carrying case to ensure that the injector is always safe.

How To Administer An Epipen
If your child is diagnosed with anaphylaxis and requires an epipen, ask the allergist if she has any epipen trainers that you can use to practice administering the medicine. An epipen trainer is an epipen that does not have a needle inside.

Administering an epipen is fairly simple. Here is a step-by-step guide.

  • With the black tip pointing down, firmly hold the epipen in your hand with a tight fist. With your other hand, remove the gray safety cap.

  • In a swift motion, jab the epipen into the outer thigh, through clothing if necessary. You should hear a “click” sound.
  • Firmly holding the epipen in place, slowly count to six before removing the unit. Gently massage the area.

  • After removing the epipen, check to see if the needle is exposed. If it is not, another dose is required with another pen.

  • Dispose of the used epipen. It is normal for liquid to remain in the unit. However, it cannot be used again.

  • Go to your nearest hospital emergency room to be assessed by a doctor. Even if you are discharged, remain at the hospital for four to six hours as symptoms may develop again.

It is important that everyone know how to administer an epipen. Even if your child does not suffer from anaphylaxis, you may look after children who do. You might want to teach older children how to administer an epipen as well in case they are ever with a friend who suffers a reaction.