Surviving Severe Allergies
Do you or your family members suffer from serious allergies? Although you do everything in your power to avoid substances that you know cause life-and-death reactions, it’s not always possible to sidestep situations that could lead to anaphylactic shock. Here’s when epinephrine autoinjectors, commonly referred to as EpiPens, might help and a guide for how to use them.
How to Tell When Someone’s Suffering From Anaphylactic Shock
Anaphylaxis is a severe, rapid-onset allergic response. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may happen within seconds of someone’s exposure to an allergen as their immune system reacts. In other cases, however, it might not occur until more than 30 minutes after the contact. Some symptoms to watch out for include:
- Hypotension, or low blood pressure,
- Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting,
- A weak yet overly fast pulse,
- Disorientation and dizziness,
- Problems breathing which may include constricted airways and a swollen throat or tongue, or
- Hives, itchiness and other skin conditions, like severe swelling around the face, eyes and area of contact.
Other key symptoms include clammy, pale skin and confusion. Some individuals may lose consciousness.
How Epinephrine Works
Anaphylactic reactions are serious because they can be potentially fatal. For instance, someone’s heartbeat or breathing might cease while they experience a reaction. For this reason, some people carry emergency doses of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline.
Epinephrine is the name of a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands and a medication based on the same compound. When administered to patients, it acts on a broad range of different tissues to combat body-wide allergic reaction symptoms.
Epinephrine autoinjectors, like those sold under the EpiPen, Adrenaclick, Anapen, Auvi Q, and Jext brands, each include a single dose of the medication. When a user presses the device against the sufferer’s outer thigh, it automatically deploys a needle designed to penetrate clothing and inject the right dosage into the intramuscular tissue.
Although individual epinephrine devices function in different ways, the majority follow a similar usage procedure. After taking the autoinjector from its case, grasp it firmly in one hand with the injection end, usually marked in a distinct color, pointed downward towards the patient. Remove the rear safety cap, and firmly press the injection end down against the patient’s outer thigh. Many devices emit an audible click to let users know that they’ve deployed successfully.
Hold the autoinjector firmly against the patient’s thigh. Count to three while it administers the dose. After removing the pen, massage the injection site gently for ten seconds while you call an ambulance.
Some people require a second shot of epinephrine later. A medical professional should always give these doses and monitor the patient, so seeking immediate care is essential.
Being Prepared and Staying Prepared
If you have never used an epinephrine injector before, you may not be entirely confident about how to use it. Luckily, there is a test unit included in every box of autoinjectors specifically for the purpose of familiarizing you and your loved ones with the device’s operation before you actually need it.
Since the allergy-sufferer is not always able to self-administer the epinephrine shot, it is a good idea to gather friends and family together to discuss how it works, and perhaps even practice using the test unit. Be sure to discuss where the device will be stored so that it can be found when needed. When the moment happens, you don’t want to waste any valuable time reading instructions and figuring out how to operate the autoinjector! It’s much better to be prepared ahead of time.
EpiPens, inhalers and similar devices may also expire or be recalled by their manufacturers. In fact, Mylan, a major epinephrine autoinjector manufacturer recently recalled multiple lots of the device due to a defect that made the autoinjector difficult to activate. It’s essential to maintain your epinephrine rescue products according to manufacturer recommendations. To learn more about living with severe allergies, visit AAPRI.