There’s no question about it. Injecting epinephrine can be anxiety-provoking for both parents of children with life-threatening allergies and adults with allergies. We reached out to members of two of our support groups to hear more about the ways they overcame their initial fears of using an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen®).
We begin with Lea P.H-C of the Montreal Anaphylaxis Support Group, who tells us about her toddler’s anaphylactic reaction. Though it’s not standard for a parent to inject a syringe, this story shows us how important it is for medical staff and parents to work in partnership to help care for children with anaphylaxis.
When my now 3-year-old daughter had her second anaphylactic reaction at 15 months, we rushed to hospital with EpiPen in hand. When we got there, triage was very quick and they bumped us ahead of everybody. In the trauma room, nurses were talking about my daughter’s case and preparing epinephrine, and an allergist happened to walk by in the hallway. He came in, and when he discovered we hadn’t given her an EpiPen before driving to the ER, he called me over, gave me the needle (filled with epinephrine) and told me to go ahead and save my daughter’s life. I have since given her four or five EpiPens on various occasions when they were needed without hesitating a second, even when I wasn’t 100% sure it was anaphylaxis. And I have never regretted a shot.
Next, C.B. of Montreal, describes the importance of administering epinephrine as soon as possible.
When my child has been in distress and could not breathe, or was showing signs of anaphylaxis, I have just done it! It almost feels like natural adrenaline rushes through a person in a life and death situation. We carry them [epinephrine auto-injectors] with us everywhere and have two children with anaphylactic food allergies. As quickly as the allergic reaction began, the EpiPen stopped it in its tracks. We always carry two on us.
We’ve had to give two before, and the ambulance technician administered a third one en route to the hospital. It is a really scary feeling and nothing prepares us for those moments. Mostly we are strong for our kids. They are terrified. We reassure them calmly.
All individuals who interact or are alone with our kids (i.e., school, camp, etc.) are briefed on our emergency anaphylaxis plan, so we are comforted by this as well. They have also all been trained to use an EpiPen.
Stephanie M. highlights the usefulness of preparing to use an auto-injector for the first time.
I ordered a trainer kit and DVD from EpiPen online for free. It helped us a lot, as well as other members of our family such as grandparents, aunts, babysitters, etc.
Moving across the country to western Canada, Jennifer D., an adult at risk for anaphylaxis, and a member of the Metro Vancouver Anaphylaxis Group, describes the way she overcame her fear of using an epinephrine auto-injector.
I was never fearful of the needle or device itself, but more fearful of admitting to myself that I was experiencing anaphylaxis and required emergency medical attention. (I don’t want to be an inconvenience to others.) I suppose I overcame that fear through repeated use and experiencing first-hand the relief the epinephrine provided, and how that additional medical support was also required (additional epinephrine for when a biphasic reaction occurred – which is the recurrence of the symptoms after the first reaction).
Now, I am sometimes hesitant to use epinephrine – mostly because I become dissociated and unable to think clearly – but I am no longer afraid to use my EpiPen or be an inconvenience to others when I need to use it.
Last, but not least, we hear from Sarah MacKinnon, co-leader of the Metro Vancouver Anaphylaxis Group, about her own experiences administering epinephrine to her child.
I was initially worried about giving the EpiPen to my child because the impression I got from our first allergist was that it was only used if my child was basically passed out on the floor and that you had to do quite a dramatic swing with it. (Not correct, of course.)
When my daughter experienced anaphylaxis at 3.5 years old, I hesitated and did not use her EpiPen. I mistakenly thought her symptoms weren’t “bad enough”, despite the fact that she had multiple symptoms in more than one body system. When we got to the Emergency Department, they told me I should have used it. I felt so bad! Then they had me inject her with the EpiPen myself, while they talked me through it. This was great, because it gave me first-hand experience.
Seeing how quickly her symptoms started to resolve, it was like magic. She barely blinked when she received the shot.
Fast forward two years, and my son had anaphylaxis after trying peanut butter for the first time. When it was clear he needed the EpiPen, I was much more confident giving it and calling 911. Again, the results were so quick.
The silver lining of having to administer the EpiPen to each of my children is that I am now much more confident. I am not scared to use it when necessary because injecting the epinephrine is just a small action that can make such a big difference in anaphylaxis. The relief you feel knowing you’ve done the right thing helps overcome any fears of the injection itself. I try to share my stories as much as possible to help allay any fear others may have.
We’re grateful to the leaders and members of our support groups for taking the time to share their stories with our readers.
For more information about recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, please visit our page on Anaphylaxis. To learn about emergency first-response to anaphylaxis, please see our Emergency Treatment page.
You can also take a free Allergy Aware course that teaches you the basics of anaphylaxis, ways to reduce risks, and the recommended emergency treatment in a 30 minute interactive format online.