How to use an Epi-Pen

If you think my daughter needs an Epi-pen. Give her an Epi-pen. You will not hurt her. But failing to act could cost her life. Her prior anaphylactic episodes have occurred within five minutes of eating one of her allergens.

Administering an Epi-pen is easy. Here are instructions for the Epi-pen Jr.

  • Take the Epi-pen out of its case
  • Remove the blue safety cap on the top
  • Grip the pen in a fist (not covering either end)
  • Press the orange tip firmly into her thigh muscle until you hear a “click”
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Remove the Epi-pen from her leg
  • Call 911

Be prepared to administer a second Epi-pen. 20% of patients who require an initial dose of epinephrine require a second dose. A second Epi-pen can be administered within 5-15 minutes if needed, i.e. the reaction is not stopped by the first dose. Beyond this, additional doses must be administered in a medical setting.

This is my favorite Epi-pen demonstration video:

It is critical to use an Epi-pen as soon as possible. This quote from a recent NY Times article describes what is happening during an allergic reaction:

“In an allergic reaction, an ordinary food protein like peanut is misidentified as an invader, like a virus or bacterium, to which the body needs to mount a defense. In the body of a person with a peanut allergy, for example, the presence of peanut protein causes the release of peanut-specific IgE antibodies, which sets off the release of a flood of chemicals, including histamines, into the bloodstream. Those chemicals lead to the release of still more chemicals, and the chemical cascade escalates in a self-sustaining feedback loop until the response causes the heart or the lungs to fail, and the person collapses — a victim of friendly fire in a battle with an imaginary enemy. An EpiPen will prevent death if it’s used within 20 minutes of exposure, but after that window, the reaction cannot always be halted.” (emphasis added)

I just discovered that Mylan Inc. (the makers of Epi-pens) created a free app that ROCKS. We have Epi-pens everywhere and this app allows me to keep track of them. We have two in a lunch box that travels with Bubba, two at my in-laws who live close by and watch Bubba regularly (love you!), two in the house, and also two at Bubba’s preschool. Who can keep track of all their expiration dates? Well there’s an app for that! It also provides tips and training.

Epi-pens need to be stored between 59F – 86F. They also need to travel with Bubba where ever she goes. This blog has a great list of Epi-pen, Auvi-q, and inhaler carriers. This study recently showed that Epi-pens can sustain some degree of temperature variation however.

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