Food allergies affect hundreds of millions of people are on the rise. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening if left untreated. In some cases, anaphylaxis can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. This is why it is essential to understand when to use an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an EpiPen.
What is an Epinephrine Auto-Injector?
An epinephrine auto-injector is a device that delivers a dose of epinephrine, a hormone that helps to relax the airway muscles and increase blood pressure. This can be lifesaving for people experiencing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and other serious symptoms.
When to Use an Epinephrine Auto-Injector
Knowing when to use an epinephrine auto-injector is crucial for people with food allergies, especially those who have previously experienced anaphylaxis. Here are some situations where an epinephrine auto-injector should be used:
1. Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis can cause a range of symptoms, including hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, repetitive vomiting, confusion, and more. If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms after exposure to an allergen, it is essential to use an epinephrine auto-injector immediately and seek emergency medical attention. The FARE Emergency Care Plan is a great resource to help identify anaphylaxis.
2. History of Anaphylaxis
People who have experienced anaphylaxis in the past are more likely to experience it again in the future. If you have a history of anaphylaxis, it is important to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times and use it immediately if you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction.
How to Use an Epinephrine Auto-Injector
Using an epinephrine auto-injector can be intimidating, but it is a simple process that can save a life. Here are the general steps to follow when using an epinephrine auto-injector (video demonstrations of each auto-injector below):
- Remove the safety cap from the auto-injector.
- Hold the auto-injector in your dominant hand with the needle end pointing downward.
- Place the needle end against the middle of the outer thigh.
- Push down firmly until the auto-injector clicks.
- Hold the auto-injector in place for 3+ seconds before removing it.
Q: How long does an epinephrine auto-injector last?
A: Most epinephrine auto-injectors expire after 12 months. It is important to check the expiration date regularly and replace the auto-injector before it expires.
Q: Is it dangerous to use epinephrine auto-injector if I didn't need it?
A: If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, it is better to use the auto-injector and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Epinephrine is a relatively safe drug with few, quickly dissipating side effects.
Knowing when to use an epinephrine auto-injector can be the difference between life and death for people with food allergies and anaphylaxis. If you or someone you know has a history of anaphylaxis, it is essential to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors at all times and know how and when to use them. Remember, if you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction, use your auto-injector and seek emergency medical attention immediately.