It’s estimated that 3.6 million Americans needed an auto-injectable epinephrine device. Epinephrine is a hormone you naturally produce in your body. When used as a medication, it acts on the whole body to block allergic reactions, relaxing muscles that may be constricting during the reaction and helps to decrease swelling.

You might have heard of the brand name for this device — an EpiPen®. EpiPens should be used when a person is experiencing a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, to something that they have ingested or that has penetrated their body, such as a bee sting. Symptoms can occur rapidly and worsen quickly. If you or someone you know has a food allergy or a history of severe reactions to other allergens, be aware of these signs and symptoms to stop their reaction before it gets serious:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat face or lips
  • Wheezing or raspy voice
  • Dizzy or feeling lightheaded
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Faint pulse
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Clammy skin
  • Fainting
  • Blood pressure change
  • Nausea or vomiting

It’s important to note that, if you know you have a food allergy or have severe allergic reactions, talk with your primary care provider about getting a prescription for an auto-injectable device.

Now that you know the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, you need to know what to do if you or someone else begins to experience an allergic reaction. Follow the steps below to learn how to prep and inject an auto-injectable epinephrine device.

  • Before using an EpiPen
    1. Remove the auto-injector from the carrier tube
    2. Use your dominant hand to hold/grip the auto-injector with the colored/labeled end facing down. Make sure your fingers are not near either end
    3. Remove the safety cap(s) with your other hand
  • Using EpiPen
    1. If using the auto-injector on someone else, hold their leg firmly
    2. Firmly inject the indicated tip into the middle-upper thigh
    3. Push in until you hear a click. The sound indicates the medicine (epinephrine) is being administered
    4. Hold the injector in place for 3 seconds
  • After using EpiPen
    1. Using your fingers, massage the area for about 10 seconds and call 911
    2. Seek emergency care or go to the nearest hospital

An EpiPen is NOT a permanent solution and you must seek emergency care after use.

Do you believe that you or someone you know may have a potentially life-threatening allergy? Make an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) to discuss the allergens you may have or take an allergen test. Your physician can prescribe an auto-injectable device for you to get conveniently at your local pharmacy.

If you do not have a PCP, UofL Health has more than 160 primary care providers conveniently located across Shelby, Bullitt, and Jefferson counties. Visit the UofL Physicians – Primary Care website today to make an appointment or call 502-588-4343.

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Christina Shea Tobbe, APRN

Christina Shea Tobbe, APRN, is a nurse practitioner who specializes in family medicine and primary care. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing at Bellarmine University and then earned her master of science degree at Northern Kentucky University. Before becoming a nurse practitioner, she worked 20 years as a float nurse in all areas of the hospital. Christina's goal is to provide the highest quality prompt care, a strong patient advocate and be an educator of disease awareness, providing care that is friendly, compassionate and acknowledges each person's individuality. Currently, Christina is working in primary care striving to promote an environment that is therapeutic, respectful and empowers the patient as a partner in their health care.

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