EpiPen: What You Need to Know

November 14, 2020

EpiPen (epinephrine) is a solution injected under the skin or into the thigh muscle to treat severe allergic reactions. It usually comes in a prefilled syringe as part of a so-called auto-injector.


What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction, which can take place suddenly, making it difficult to reach an emergency room in time. This is why EpiPen, used by the patient or a family member, can be life saving. Contrary to popular belief, an anaphylactic reaction is not just limited to the skin or the throat but can involve many organ systems. Signs and symptoms of anaphylactic reactions are:

  • Hives (reddened areas)
  • Itching
  • Numb or swollen lips
  • Pale or flushed skin
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing
  • Swollen tongue or throat
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness


Causes of Anaphylaxis

Causes of Anaphylaxis can be unique to any individual, but some common allergens are:

  • Bee stings
  • Yellow jackets
  • Hornets
  • Wasps
  • Fire ants
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Tree nuts
  • Latex
  • Penicillin
  • Radiocontrast dyes
  • Exercise (rare)


When to Use the EpiPen?

If you have a history of anaphylaxis and you know you have been exposed to something you are severely allergic and are showing early signs, then use the EpiPen immediately to avoid progression to a severe anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis can be deadly if not treated promptly.


Do EpiPens Expire?

EpiPens generally expire after about 2 years and should be replaced if not used within that time period.

The time frame may even be less than 2 years if the EpiPen has been exposed to heat—for example by leaving it in a car during a hot day. According to one study, the EpiPen becomes significantly less effective when left in the car on a hot day even just once. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the EpiPen with you in a bag or purse at all times and not leave exposed to heat or the sun.

Did you know? QuickMD can provide you with a prescription for an EpiPen online—so you are prepared for the worst.

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