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
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.
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).
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