Epipen® is an intramuscular auto-injector that administers a single measured dose of Epinephrine (you probably know this as Adrenaline) in the event of an anaphylactic attack.
If you have a severe peanut allergy, then you would carry an Epinen® everywhere with you. If you accidentally ingest peanuts and develop breathing problems (Anaphylaxis), the Epipen® can save your life.
What is Epinephrine and how does it work?
You’ve probably heard of epinephrine under it’s non-technical name—adrenaline. When you ride a roller coaster or give a presentation, you may feel your heart beat a little faster, your breath intake increase and a sudden burst of energy. That’s adrenaline at work, a substance your body naturally releases under stress. And the medicine inside EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors and Mylan’s authorized generics happens to be a synthetic version of adrenaline—epinephrine.
Epinephrine and adrenaline are the same thing. However, the preferred name of the substance inside your EpiPen® Auto-Injector or its authorized generic varies by where you live. In Europe, the term “adrenaline” is more common, while in the United States the term “epinephrine” is used.
During a life threatening event, Epinephrine (Adrenaline) constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure, relaxes smooth muscles in the lungs to reduce wheezing and improve breathing, stimulates the heart (increases heart rate) and works to reduce hives and swelling that may occur around the face and lips.
According to national food allergy guidelines, epinephrine is the only recommended first-line treatment for anaphylaxis. Not antihistamines, which do not relieve shortness of breath, wheezing, gastrointestinal symptoms or shock. Therefore, antihistamines should not be a substitute for epinephrine, particularly in severe re-actions where rapid medication is required to ease breathing. As Epipen® delivers the epinephrine directly into the muscle, it is almost instantly available to the body.
Who should carry an Epipen®?
Everyone who suffers from any of the following conditions should encourage their doctors to prescribe an Epipen®
- Allergies to foods such as peanuts, shellfish, etc, particularly if you’ve experienced trouble breathing in the past.
- Bee Sting Allergy
- Certain types of medication
- Eczema sufferers may also consider carrying an Epipen® as there is conclusive evidence that a large number of eczema sufferers also experience reactions to certain allergens.
My child requires/uses an Epipen®
If your child experiences severe reactions to certain allergens, ensure the following;
- If the child is old enough, ensure they know how to use the Epipen® themselves. Frequently go over the directions for administering the injection and the site (upper thigh) to be injected. Allow them to use expired Epipen’s® to practice on an orange or other suitable surface.
- Ensure the child’s teachers, coaches and any other caregivers are well versed in the use of the Epipen®
- Request at least four Epipen’s® from your doctor. One should be carried by the child in their backpack to ensure it is always close to hand.
- Keep one in the family car, away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Ensure the school/daycare/creche has an Epipen® on site with specific instructions.
- Keep an Epipen® in the house, in a clearly marked container and within reach of everyone.
- Epipen’s® expire quickly. Set an alarm on your phone for a date two weeks prior to the expiration. Ensure you change all the packs at the same time to simplify keeping track of the dates.
If you, as the adult, require the Epipen®, then obviously many of the above points are not applicable, but many are. Remember the car, the home and the briefcase or office. One of these is usually close at hand.
You can also purchase a sling for around your neck that will hold the Epipen®, these can prove convenient from time to time if your hiking, running or cycling.
Safety and can I use my Epipen on someone else?
If you know the person uses an Epipen®, then absolutely. However you need to be cautious with an Epipen® in case the person has an underlying health condition or if they are old, as an Epipen® can have dangerous side effects for some people. Epinephrine can affect your heart and interact with certain medications. If you’re on the line with 9-1-1 tell them you have the Epipen® and allow them to advise you.
There are also a few safety precautions you should observe with an Epipen®
- Only a healthcare professional should give additional doses of epinephrine if you need more than two injections for a single anaphylactic episode.
- EpiPen® or EpiPen Jr® should only be injected into the middle of your outer thigh (upper leg), through clothing if necessary. Do not inject into your veins, buttocks, fingers, toes, hands or feet.
- Hold the leg of young children firmly in place before and during injection to prevent injuries
- If you accidentally inject yourself in the finger or elsewhere, seek immediate medical attention.
- Dispose safely and responsibly of the unit after use.