Patient Information

Epinephrine auto-injectors

What is an epinephrine auto-injector? — An epinephrine auto-injector is a device that gives a person a shot of a medicine called “epinephrine.” Epinephrine is used to treat a severe allergic reaction, also called “anaphylaxis.” A severe allergic reaction can happen after a person eats a food, takes a medicine, or is stung by an insect that he or she is allergic to.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? — Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:

  • Hives — These are raised, red patches of skin that are very itchy
  • Puffiness of the face, eyelids, ears, mouth, hands, or feet
  • Redness or itching of the skin (without hives)
  • Runny nose or swelling of the tongue
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Feeling dizzy or passing out
  • Death (although this is rare)

When should I use my epinephrine auto-injector? — Your doctor or nurse will tell you when you should use your auto-injector. Most doctors recommend that you use one right away when you have an allergic reaction and:

  • Have trouble breathing or feel like your throat is tight
  • Feel dizzy or like you are going to pass out
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If your doctor prescribed an auto-injector for your child, use it right away when your child has an allergic reaction and:

  • Seems groggy or passes out
  • Vomits a lot
  • Coughs a lot
  • Has hives all over his or her body

Most doctors also recommend that you use an auto-injector right away if you or your child eats a food that caused a severe allergic reaction in the past.

How do I use an epinephrine auto-injector? — Your auto-injector will have directions that come with it. In general, you:

  • Take the auto-injector out of its case
  • Hold the auto-injector in your fist, making sure that your fingers aren’t over either end
  • Take off the safety cap or caps
  • Press the tip firmly into the outer thigh — The needle in the auto-injector can go through clothes
  • Hold it in place and count to 10

 

After you use an auto-injector, call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital, because your symptoms can come back as the medicine wears off. In the hospital, doctors can give you other medicines and make sure that your symptoms don’t return.

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What if the auto-injector doesn’t stop my symptoms? — The medicine in the auto-injector should stop your symptoms within a few minutes. But if your symptoms don’t improve, get worse, or return before you reach the hospital, you will need another dose.

Some auto-injectors have 2 doses of medicine in them, but others have only 1 dose. If your auto-injector has only 1 dose of medicine, you will need to use a second auto-injector.

Where should I keep my auto-injector? — Keep your auto-injector at room temperature — and not in places that get too hot or cold.

You should carry at least 1 auto-injector with you at all times, because you never know when you’ll need it. Let your family members know where you keep your auto-injector. That way, if you have an allergic reaction but can’t get your auto-injector, another person can get it and use it on you.

If your child has an auto-injector, be sure to bring it wherever he or she goes. You should also keep 1 at your child’s school (if he or she goes to school).

SEE MORE:  Anaphylaxis symptoms and diagnosis

What are the side effects of epinephrine? — Epinephrine can cause short-term side effects, such as:

  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling nervous, shaky, or dizzy
  • Headache