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EpiPen is an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) designed for the emergency treatment of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Although some allergic reactions can be simply uncomfortable or unsightly as a result of mild swelling or a rash, anaphylactic shock can be far more severe. It occurs when your immune system overreacts to an innocuous substance such as food or medication but it can also happen as a result of insect stings, exercise or exposure to latex.
The symptoms of anaphylactic shock include breathing difficulties, swelling of the tongue, mouth or throat, wheezing, and collapse and unconsciousness. It can happen anywhere up to an hour or two after coming into contact with an allergen though generally, anaphylaxis will develop very suddenly and rapidly, making it life-threatening. The EpiPen administers a dose of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, to control symptoms of shock and get the sufferer out of harm’s way.
EpiPens can be bought online in packs of either 1 or 2 pens. You will be required to complete an assessment as part of a free and confidential appointment with one of the Click Pharmacy doctors. This ensures that an Epipen is right for your medical situation and upon completion, you will be prescribed the EpiPen after which you can purchase your medication.
When faced with anaphylactic shock, every second matters so acting without hesitation is vital. If you have experienced an episode in the past, you may have been prescribed an auto-injector in case of future attacks. An immediate first-line treatment, the device is pre-filled with the adrenaline required to treat a shock. Conveniently, the medicine can be self-injected or injected by a carer and should take effect immediately. This means that you do not have to wait for an ambulance to arrive to treat the problem however, it is advisable to call the emergency services whenever anaphylactic shock strikes.
The ideal dose of adrenaline depends on your body weight however 0.5 mg is the maximum dose for an adult and 0.3 mg is the maximum dose for a child. This will be discussed with you during your consultation with one of our doctors.
Adrenalin is supplied in a pen-shaped applicator with an enclosed needle. To administer the epinephrine, the EpiPen should be jabbed into your mid-outer thigh muscle, through clothes if necessary, until it clicks. It should be held in place here for a slow count to 3. Continue to hold the pen in place for 3 further seconds to ensure the full dose is delivered and once the auto-injector is removed, the injected area should be massaged for at least 10 seconds. For more detailed instructions on how to take this medicine, follow the guidelines that come with your device.
After a more severe allergic reaction, it may be necessary for a patient to be administered with more than one shot of epinephrine, five to fifteen minutes after the first. As such, if you have been prescribed the use of an EpiPen it is often advised that you ensure you have access to two pens for such an occurrence.
When you experience anaphylactic shock the chemicals which flood into your system in response to the allergen causes the blood pressure to drop and the airways to narrow which can block your ability to breathe. The adrenalin administered via the EpiPen works to counteract this potentially fatal reaction by first constricting blood vessels to reduce swelling and increase blood pressure. It also relaxes the lungs and throat making it easier to breathe and finally, it stops any further release of chemicals causing the reaction to help stop the reaction from continuing.
So as to ensure you receive the full benefit of your epinephrine upon administration it is crucial your EpiPen is stored correctly. The following are recommendations as to how to optimally store your medication:
According to EpiPen manufacturers, epinephrine should be administered only in a situation when not doing so could cause more damage to the mother and baby than doing so. There is limited research in this area but since anaphylactic shock is very dangerous for the unborn baby, and if you have previously been prescribed an EpiPen, then it is important to continue to keep one to hand for extreme situations. If the EpiPen is needed during pregnancy then medical attention should be sought immediately before or after use.
Speak to your GP or book a free and confidential appointment with one of the doctors at Click Pharmacy to discuss any concerns you may have.
Aside from the desired effects of administering epinephrine to a patient suffering from anaphylactic shock, there can also be a number of unwanted side effects.
Within five to 10 minutes of taking this medication, you may experience one or more of the following:
heart palpitations, dizziness, anxiety, tremors, headache, cold skin, decreased touch sensation, heavy chest, blurred vision, sweating, tiredness, pounding in the ears, vomiting or nausea.
Most drugs have some kind of side effect and though uncommon it is necessary to be aware of the potential to experience these types of issues so that you know what to do if they occur. If you experience any of the above and/or any other kind of issue as a result of the EpiPen, it is important not to panic as these side effects usually pass quickly with rest. If the side effect is more extreme then let a medical professional know right away by calling 999 and if you are with someone, let them know you are experiencing issues.
Side effects can last longer in patients with high blood pressure and thyroid conditions so use an EpiPen with caution in these situations.
If you are concerned about possible side effects, consult your doctor for advice or get in touch with one of our healthcare professionals at Click Pharmacy.
Content reviewed 06 April 2020, Last updated 06 April 2020