Learn What is in an Epi Pen & How to Administer the Injection
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How to Administer an EpiPen in an Allergy Emergency

written by: Tania Cowling • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 5/17/2011

Some allergies cause a life-threatening reaction, resulting in the immediate need of an Epi Pen. Find out how to administer a single shot of adrenaline and why it is used to save lives.

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    Some people have life-threatening allergies called anaphylaxis. The most common allergens that cause anaphylaxis are foods, insect stings, and drugs. If a child or adult begins to have severe symptoms such as swelling of the tongue, tightness in the throat, very low blood pressure (shock), or difficulty breathing, you need to take immediate action to save his life.

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    What Is an EpiPen?

    An EpiPen is an automatic-injectable adrenaline kit used in emergencies to get the patient stabilized after an allergic reaction. A singleIMG 1327  shot of adrenaline (epinephrine) pushes blood pressure back to normal and reduces swelling, which keeps your airways open and helps you breathe. It is the quickest and most effective way to neutralize a severe allergic reaction. A doctor must prescribe an EpiPen. Administering this medicine via injection is rather simple, and the medical staff can give you directions and a trial run with a nonmedicated training device. The EpiPen comes in two strengths: one for children (0.15mg) and one for adults (0.3 mg).

    A person (or parent of a child) who is prone to severe allergic reactions should carry an EpiPen with her at all times. Doctors sometimes dispense multiple kits so that one can be carried in a purse or briefcase, in the car, or left at home. Never keep the auto kit in extreme heat or cold. Always be prepared to take immediate action should an allergic reaction take place.

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    Correct Way to Use It

    The EpiPen is a pre-filled dose of adrenaline that is ready for one dose. The shot comes in a yellow or green plastic container. Unscrew to remove the syringe. The person must hold the auto-injector device in his fist with the black end pointing down and remove (pull off) the grey end cap. Next, gently swing the arm and aim the black tip toward the thigh at a 90-degree angle. Keep the injection site in the meaty part of the thigh avoiding any large veins. Use moderate pressure for about 10 seconds for the medicine to release. Remove the syringe and make sure the needle is showing, which means the medicine has been dispensed. If necessary, give the injection through clothing. Replace the used syringe back into its case.

    Arrange for an ambulance or transportation to the nearest hospital and take the EpiPen along with you. Tell the physician what you have administered, and let the ER staff evaluate the anaphylaxis situation to ensure the patient is stable and the allergic reaction is under control.

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    Proper Storage

    The adrenaline in your emergency kit should be checked once a month to be sure the solution is not discolored or outdated, which would indicate a decrease in potency. The drug also deteriorates in sunlight, so do not store the kit on the car’s dashboard or in front of a window at home.

    Epinephrine injections can save lives via the EpiPen. How to administer the auto-injection is easy to learn, and a person with severe allergies has peace of mind if and when an emergency arises.

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    References

    "Epinephrine Injection" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000211

    "Epinephrine Auto-Injector" http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=44752&pf=3&page=1

    "Factsheet-Allergy-EpiPen Use" http://www.sch.edu.au/health/factsheets/joint/?epipen_use.htm

    Photo credit: Tania Cowling, all rights reserved

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