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How to use an EpiPen


For many allergy sufferers, exposure to a known allergen can not only be harmful, in some cases, it can be deadly.

That’s why many allergists like myself prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector. They can go by the brand name EpiPen and Auvi-Q.

An autoinjector is used to deliver a dose of epinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter, that is used to treat a serious allergic reaction.

It can be scary if you or a loved one suddenly experiences a severe allergic reaction, so it’s important to be prepared and have immediate access to an autoinjector.

Here are some important points to remember when using an autoinjector:

  • If you need to use the autoinjector, always use it on the outer or fleshy part of the thigh. Studies have shown that by injecting the epinephrine in the outer part of the thigh, the medication begins to work faster than if you inject it into the arm.
  • If you’ve had accidental ingestion or contact with a known allergen and begin to experience lip swelling, tongue swelling, the sensation that your throat is closing, difficulty breathing or break out in hives, that’s the time to use the autoinjector. Many people think they should use an antihistamine first if their symptoms aren’t severe. The problem with that is the reaction can rapidly progress and can be hard to control if you don’t act quickly and use the autoinjector. The only medication that works in the case of a severe allergic reaction is epinephrine.
  • Patients who carry an autoinjector should have two pens with them at all times for a couple of reasons. Each pen is meant for one-time-only use. So if you’ve used the pen, you can’t use it again and will need to have another as back-up. Also, sometimes more than one dose of epinephrine is needed when a severe allergic reaction occurs, so you should always carry a second pen just in case. The good news is the pens are sold in sets of two.
  • Be sure to periodically check the expiration date on the autoinjector.
  • Every time you use the autoinjector, you should seek care at the emergency room. In thirty percent of people who have a severe allergic reaction, even after the symptoms improve and resolve completely, there is a chance they can have another reaction within a few hours.
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