Epinephrine (adrenaline), a self-injectable medication, is the first-line treatment for severe or life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Epinephrine is a highly effective medication that can reverse severe symptoms. However, it must be administered promptly during anaphylaxis to be most effective. Delayed use of epinephrine during an anaphylactic reaction has been associated with deaths.
If you have been prescribed epinephrine, make sure you have quick access to this medication at all times. Be aware of your auto-injector’s expiration date, and carry the device with you at all times! There are several epinephrine carriers on the market that make it easier to carry the device.
Epinephrine is available in three types of auto-injector devices:
Using an Auto-injector
Ask your doctor for training on how to use the auto-injector that has been prescribed for you. In addition, the manufacturers’ websites provide detailed information, including instructions for using the device. It’s important to become familiar with these instructions. Practice using the auto-injector until the process becomes second nature. Teach others how to use it as well.
An injection of epinephrine should be given in the outer thigh. Injecting the medication intravenously or into the buttocks is not recommended. Auto-injectors can usually be used through clothing. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for details.
Once the device is injected, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer regarding how long to hold the device in place to ensure all of the medication has been delivered.
Once epinephrine is administered, you should call 911 immediately and advise dispatchers that you have just used epinephrine for a suspected food-induced anaphylactic reaction. Make arrangements to be transported to an emergency room for additional treatment and for observation.
Carrying and Storing Epinephrine
Epinephrine is sensitive to light and should be stored at room temperature. Do not refrigerate epinephrine, and take precautions to prevent the device from freezing. Epinephrine should never be stored in a vehicle, where temperatures can climb to triple digits, causing the medication to become less effective.
Periodically check the epinephrine solution for discoloration. If the solution becomes slightly pinkish in color, or darker than slightly yellow, the medication may be less effective; call your doctor for a replacement device.