When You Should Use Your Injectable Epinephrine

If you've been diagnosed with a severe allergy to a food or environmental allergen, your allergy specialist has likely recommended that you carry injectable epinephrine, often called by the popular brand name Epipen, with you wherever you go. Even if you don't expect to be exposed to the allergen, it's imperative that you keep your epinephrine within close reach at all times; allergic responses can happen anytime. If you aren't sure when you should use your epinephrine, you should talk to your allergist. In the meantime, here are some tips.

When You Have Come Into Contact With a Known Allergen

You try to avoid the substances you're allergic to, but it's always possible that you will unknowingly ingest a food allergen or encounter a stinging insect that has caused a severe reaction in the past. If you are severely allergic to bees, for example, and you are stung, you shouldn't wait to see if you have a reaction before using your epinephrine. Sometimes an allergic response can be delayed. Go ahead and inject the epinephrine and call for help.

When You Have Symptoms of an Anaphylactic Response

In many cases, a person won't know that they've accidentally ingested an allergen until they feel the symptoms of anaphylaxis. The first signs of an allergic response are often hives or welts on the skin. If you suddenly break out in hives or your skin begins to swell, this is a sign that you might be getting ready to go into anaphylaxis, particularly if you have had this response to an allergen in the past. This is a sign that you should use your epinephrine.

Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling or tingling of the mouth and tongue, itching and swelling of the throat, shortness of breath or wheezing, dizziness, or sudden vomiting or diarrhea. If you have a severe allergy, these are signs that you need to use your medication.

When the First Injection Didn't Work or Wears Off

Injected epinephrine is not a long-acting medication. Immediately after injecting the dose, you should call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency room so you can get the care you need. Sometimes the epinephrine will wear off before the ambulance arrives; another possibility is that the first injection of epinephrine might not take care of your symptoms. If five or ten minutes pass and you aren't feeling any better, you can inject the second dose. This is why epinephrine packs come with two injectors.

If you have any questions about your medication, it's important to talk to your allergist to have them answered. Being comfortable with how to use your injected epinephrine can mean the difference between life and death. For more information, talk to a professional like The Regional Allergy Asthma & Immunology Center, PC.