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how to use epipen for Anaphylaxis

When we were kids there really was not a lot of information or concern for allergies.  As the years have passed, we are now seeing a huge amount of children and adults who are faced with life threatening allergies.  We have kids in our kids classes, children who come to our children's birthday parties and there are kids in our kids extra curricular activities who have life threatening allergies.

So we know these children and adults have these allergies, but what do you do if an allergic reaction happens?  This is something that needs to be done very fast, as an anaphylactic allergy can be extremely serious.  Below are some tips that may help you sometime in the future with an allergy.

Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction. It can progress very quickly and may cause death without proper medical attention.

An allergen is a substance which can cause an allergic reaction. While food is one of the most common allergens, medicine, insect stings, latex and exercise can also cause a reaction.

The EpiPen® Auto-Injector is a disposable, pre-filled automatic injection device that administers epinephrine in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

EpiPen® contains epinephrine, a medication that can help decrease your body’s allergic reaction by:

  • Relaxing the muscles in your airways to make breathing easier
  • Helping to reverse the rapid and dangerous decrease in blood pressure
  • Relaxing the muscles in the stomach, intestines and bladder

Signs & Symptoms of an allergic reaction usually happens within minutes after being exposed to an allergen, but sometimes it can take place several hours after exposure. A reaction can involve any of these symptoms, and a person could have one or more of these symptoms regardless of the allergen:  

  • Skin: hives, swelling, itching, warmth, redness, rash
  • Respiratory system (breathing): coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, throat tightness, hoarse voice, nasal congestion or hay fever-like symptoms (runny itchy nose and watery eyes, sneezing), trouble swallowing
  • Gastrointestinal system (stomach): nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Cardiovascular system (heart): pale/blue colour, weak pulse, passing out, dizzy/lightheaded, shock
  • Other: anxiety, feeling of "impending doom", headache, uterine cramps, metallic taste

The most dangerous symptoms of an allergic reaction are:

  • Trouble breathing caused by swelling of the airways (including a severe asthma attack for people who have asthma)
  • A drop in blood pressure causing dizziness, feeling light-headed, feeling faint or weak, or passing out.

Both can lead to death if untreated

Emergency Steps

  1. Give epinephrine (e.g. EpiPen®, Twinject® or Allerject™) at the first signs of an allergic reaction. Remove the EpiPen® Auto-Injector from the carrier tube and follow these simple steps:
  2. Hold firmly with orange tip pointing downward.
  3. Remove blue safety cap by pulling straight up. Do not bend or twist.
  4. Swing and push orange tip firmly into mid-outer thigh until you hear a “click.”
  5. Hold on thigh for several seconds.  (Built-in needle protection.  When EpiPen® is removed, the orange needle cover automatically extends to cover the injection needle, ensuring the needle is never exposed).
  6. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services and tell them that someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.
  7. Give a second dose of epinephrine in 5-15 minutes IF the reaction continues or gets worse, and if they have a second dose to use.
  8. 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 after using epinephrine. You should stay in the hospital to be observed (generally about 4 hours).
  9. Call the emergency contact person (e.g., parent, guardian, spouse).

Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan

Everyone at risk for anaphylaxis should have an anaphylaxis emergency plan with clear instructions on how to treat symptoms and strategies to reduce risks. The plan is usually two pages. The first page is a form with a person's photo and allergy information and the second page has instructions on how to use an auto-injector.  So, the next time you have a child in your care, please ask for this information.

 Source:  Some information in the Anaphylaxis 101 section is taken from Anaphylaxis in Schools & Other Settings. Copyright © 2005-2011 Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

© 2012 Pfizer Canada Inc., Kirkland, Quebec H9J 2M5 • Toll free: 1-877-EPIPEN1 (1-877-374-7361)

EpiPen®, EpiPen® Jr are registered trademarks of Mylan Inc. licensed exclusively to its wholly-owned affiliate, Dey Pharma, L.P.; sub-licensee, Pfizer Canada Inc., Kirkland, Quebec H9J 2M5

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