Auto-injectors can be purchased without a prescription in Canada.
The 5 Emergency Steps
- Give epinephrine (e.g. EpiPen® ) at the first signs of an allergic reaction.
- Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services and tell them that someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.
- Give a second dose of epinephrine as early as 5 minutes after the first dose if there is no improvement in symptoms.
- Go to the nearest hospital right away (ideally by ambulance), even if symptoms are mild or have stopped. The reaction could get worse or come back.
- Call emergency contact persons (e.g., parent, guardian, spouse).
Download the 5 Emergency Steps as a PDF.
Keep in mind the following body positions while giving epinephrine and waiting for emergency care to arrive.
- Place the person on their back with their legs raised.
- If the person is vomiting, place them on their side so that their airway is clear and they do not choke on vomit.
- Remember: standing suddenly can lead to severe complications, even death.
What is Epinephrine?
Epinephrine is the drug form of a hormone (adrenaline) that the body produces on its own. It helps to reverse symptoms of an allergic reaction by:
- Opening the airways
- Improving blood pressure
- Accelerating heart rate
Epinephrine is the only drug that can reverse symptoms of anaphylaxis. Canadian allergists advise that an epinephrine auto-injector (such as EpiPen® ) is the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis and should be used first, before asthma puffers or any other medications.
Epinephrine is life-saving medication, and you need to know how to use it. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about using epinephrine, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Training devices are also available to practice using the auto-injector.
Keep it up-to-date
Make sure your auto-injector is not expired. You can check the date on the device, or sign up for a free e-mail reminder at www.epipen.ca .
Take care of it
Epinephrine can lose its effectiveness when stored in extreme heat or cold. Never leave it in a car’s glove box or under a stroller where it can get too hot or too cold. Carry it in an inside coat pocket in winter. In summer, don’t leave it in the hot sun.
Practice using it
You can order a free training device, which contains no needle or drug, from www.epipen.ca .
Teach friends, family, co-workers, babysitters, teachers — anyone who needs to know — how to use the auto-injector and where you keep it.
No matter where you go, your auto-injector should be with you. Many families live by the motto “No auto-injector, no food”. There are even apps you can purchase that will help you remember to bring it when you leave home.
The auto-injector is easy to use, it’s safe and it saves lives. If you have questions about your auto-injector, speak to your allergist or see our Resource section.
A Note to Parents
You are a role model for your child. As your child grows and learns to carry their own auto-injector, they will remember your example. Learn more.