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Can your physician teach you how to use an EpiPen®?

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:42 / Updated on October 10, 2019 at 18:13

The EpiPen® is an auto-injector that contains epinephrine (adrenalin). It is prescribed to individuals who suffer from severe allergies and/or who have previously experienced anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). The EpiPen® is an emergency treatment that must be used immediately when anaphylaxis occurs. Epinephrine delays the progress of an allergic reaction, giving the individual enough time to get to the emergency room to receive the necessary medical treatments.

All physicians know how to prescribe the EpiPen® to their patients who suffer from severe allergies, but can they teach them how to use it correctly? According to an Australian study, it seems they cannot. Researchers asked 100 physicians from a major teaching paediatric Hospital to demonstrate how to use the EpiPen®. Only two of the physicians were able to accurately accomplish the six steps necessary to administer the injection…

Not only did 95 of the 100 physicians have to read the instructions before performing the demonstration, only 39 of them were subsequently able to use it correctly. Furthermore, 16% of the participating physicians accidentally injected themselves in the thumb! Finally, in 37% of cases, the injections would not have even delivered epinephrine… Thankfully, it was only a demonstration!

Here are the six steps recommended by the Canadian manufacturer of the EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr. ® Auto-Injectors: 

1. Remove the EpiPen® from its protective storage tube 

2. Hold the EpiPen® with the orange tip pointing downward and remove the blue safety cap 

3. Place the orange tip of the EpiPen® firmly against the mid-outer thigh (there is no need to remove clothing) 

4. Press firmly on the EpiPen® until it activates, and keep it against the thigh for three seconds 

5. Massage the injection site for 10 seconds 

6. Call 911 or go to the closest emergency room immediately

If you or someone close to you suffers from severe allergies, make sure you understand how to use the EpiPen® properly. Not only do severe allergic reactions appear suddenly, they also aggravate very quickly. The EpiPen® is designed to be used at the first sign of an allergic reaction. So be prepared, because reading instructions in this emergency situation will only waste precious time!

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