What is an EpiPen?

What is an EpiPen?

What is an EpiPen?

An EpiPen is a device used to quickly deliver the medication epinephrine to someone who’s experiencing anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life threatening consequence of an allergic reaction.
With anaphylaxis, your body becomes triggered by something you’re allergic to, such as a type of food or bee venom, and your immune system overreacts to it by causing life threatening symptoms. The reaction may start off mild but can rapidly become a medical emergency as it affects your blood pressure and breathing.
The EpiPen is an auto-injector, a device that delivers a set dose of medication deep in the muscle. Auto-injectors are also used with other medications. The needle is located inside the device, and you can conveniently carry the auto-injector in your pocket or bag.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

The symptoms of anaphylaxis can come on quickly and worsen quickly as well. Anaphylaxis is an emergency. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, don’t hesitate to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Then use 911 or local emergency services.
Symptoms to look out for can include:

  • difficultyHow to use an EpiPen breathing
  • swelling of the throat, face, or lips
  • wheezing or hoarseness
  • feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • having a rapid heart rate
  • having pale or clammy skin
  • low blood pressure
  • having a feeling of doom
  • fainting or collapsing

Other symptoms may include:

  • hives and itching
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

How to use an EpiPen

According to the manufacturer, the three steps to using an EpiPen are: Prepare, Administer, Get emergency medical help

Remove the EpiPen from its clear carrier. Flip open the yellow cap of the tube and slide the device out.
Hold the device in your fist with the orange tip pointing down. You can remember this by using the saying “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.”
Remove the blue safety release. Using your opposite hand, pull straight up, avoiding bending or twisting the device.

Place the orange tip on thigh. Next, aim for the middle of the outer thigh, holding it at a right angle to the thigh.
Swing the pen back about 6 inches and firmly push it against the thigh. The orange tip contains the needle, and it should click when the injection has started.
Hold firmly in place for 3 seconds. Hold the needle still in the muscle while counting slowly for 3 seconds.
Remove the EpiPen from your thigh. Once removed, the orange tip should cover the needle, but don’t reuse the device if it doesn’t.
Massage the injection site. Rub the area around the injection site for 10 seconds.

Get emergency medical help
Call 911 or local emergency services, or have someone quickly take you or the other person to the nearest emergency room. Because symptoms may reoccur, it’s not recommended that you drive yourself unless absolutely necessary.
If you use an epinephrine auto-injector that’s not an EpiPen, please review that manufacturer’s administration instructions and go to a doctor with any questions or concerns.
Sometimes the person may need a second dose (requiring an additional auto-injector) should they not respond effectively to the first dose.
If you need to administer epinephrine to another adult by using an auto-injector, follow the steps and administer the injection into the upper thigh. It may help to administer the injection while the person is lying down or sitting.

What to do in an emergency

What should you do in the event that someone is experiencing anaphylaxis? Follow the steps below in an emergency situation.
1. Call 911 immediately.
2. Ask the person if they’re carrying an epinephrine auto-injector on them. If so, ask them if they need your help administering the injection.
3. Administer the epinephrine injection.
4. Loosen any tight-fitting clothing.
5. Help the person lie on their back. If they’re feeling nauseous or have vomited, gently turn them on their side. Also, turn them on their side if they’re unconscious, pregnant, or having trouble breathing.
6. Remove any allergy triggers if possible.
7. Cover the person with a blanket if available.
8. Avoid giving them any food or drink.
9.If a second epinephrine auto-injector is available, give another injection if symptoms haven’t improved in about 5 to 15 minutes. However, more than two injections shouldn’t be given without the supervision of a medical professional.
10. If there are no signs of breathing, administer CPR.
11. Stay with the person and continue to reassure them until help arrives.

Other safety tips

To help prevent an anaphylactic reaction, or to be prepared if you experience one, follow the safety tips below:
Identify and avoid your allergy triggers. Examples of common allergy triggers include: medications, venom from insect bites or stings, foods, such as peanuts and shellfish, contrast agents used in medical imaging, latex
Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector with you. Try to carry a double pack in case you have a reaction and one dose doesn’t alleviate your symptoms or your symptoms come back before help arrives.
Monitor the expiration date. The drug’s life depends on the manufacturer and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmation. They may extend use dates if needed. You can find the expiration date on the device itself or on the FDA website
Check your auto-injector regularly. Note the expiration date and the color of the liquid in the injector, which should be clear. Replace your auto-injector if the fluid is discolored.
Always store your epinephrine auto-injector at room temperature. Extremes in temperature may make the medication less effective.
Know the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction. Knowing this information can allow you to administer your epinephrine injection promptly.

Learn how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Be sure your family, friends, and caregivers know as well. Many manufacturers include a practice injector (trainer) to practice administering an injection.
Let others know about your allergy. This can help them learn what to do if you have a severe allergic reaction. Consider wearing medical identification jewelry or carrying a medical identification card to let people know about your allergy in case of an emergency.
Always use 911 or local emergency services if you experience anaphylaxis. Don’t wait for your symptoms to improve. Ask for medical care as soon as you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
Make sure you properly dispose of your EpiPen. The device contains a needle and must be disposed of in a special container for sharp objects. These containers should be available through a local pharmacy, medical supply company, or healthcare professional. If not available, the FDA recommends disposing of your EpiPen in an empty laundry detergent container that’s sealed with a lid.

Source: How to Use an EpiPen: Instructions, Emergency Tips, and More (healthline.com)

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