If you have been told to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen), you may have questions. What is epinephrine? When should I use it? How should it be carried and cared for? We consulted with allergists and educators to come up with the following info and guidelines.
What is epinephrine?
Epinephrine is the drug form of a hormone (adrenaline) that helps to reverse symptoms of an allergic reaction by:
- Opening the airways
- Improving blood pressure
- Accelerating the heart rate
Epinephrine is the only drug that can reverse symptoms of anaphylaxis. It is safe – and it saves lives. Other medications, such as Benadryl and asthma puffers will not reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
When do I use it?
An epinephrine auto-injector is the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis and should be used first, before asthma puffers or any other medications. Don’t waste any time. If you see a reaction, use the auto-injector, then call 911.
Give a second dose of epinephrine as early as 5 minutes after the first dose if there is no improvement in symptoms. Please see our 5 Emergency Steps (also available as a .pdf).
How do I use it?
You can order a free training device, which contains no needle or drug, from www.epipen.ca. Use the trainer to teach friends, family, co-workers, babysitters, teachers and anyone who needs to know how to use the auto-injector.
How do I take care of it?
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.
Epinephrine can lose its effectiveness when stored in extreme heat or cold. Keep it at room temperature. 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.
When do I need to carry it?
Always. No matter where you go, your auto-injector should be with you. There are apps available from the iTunes store to help you remember to bring it when you leave home, and a smart case that reminds you to carry and can alert your loved ones if you use your Epi.
If you have more questions about your auto-injector, ask your allergist or see our Resource section.
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