Food Allergy Awareness Week: How to Use an Epipen
This week is Food Allergy Research and Education's (FARE's) Food Allergy Awareness Week, to raise awareness about food allergies and their serious health effects. This website is an amazing resource for those wanting to learn about food allergies, get involved in helping those with food allergies and try to make changes in the world to help those with food allergies.
To contribute to Food Allergy Awareness Week, I wanted to share a post about using an EpiPen. It is something that seems so normal and common to me, but when speaking to friends and family friends about it, many don't even know what an Epipen looks like, let alone how to use one. And I feel like it is a great first aid skill to have, especially if the person having the allergic reaction is unable to speak due to a swollen throat, is hysterical or starts to lose consciousness, and wouldn't be able to administer the EpiPen to themselves.
First things first, this is an EpiPen. It comes it a bright yellow box, and the top of the tube and outside of the pen are bright yellow. Now, if it is a child's strength EpiPen, the colour on top of the tube and outside of the pen is green. This is a very important distinction because the green pen would not give an adult enough medicine and the yellow pen could overdose a child on epinephrine (or adrenaline). An adult sized EpiPen contains 0.3 mg of epinephrine. I don't have a child sized EpiPen anymore so I can't remember how much epinephrine is it, but it is a smaller dose.
I carry two EpiPen's with me, be it in my purse or backpack, at all times. That is in case one EpiPen doesn't actually work (or breaks) or that one won't be enough. I also have one EpiPen in my kitchen, still in its box, so it is easily identifiable to someone if they have never seen an Epipen before. I also recommend, if your child is still in elementary or high school, keeping an EpiPen at the school's office, so it is easily accessible if a reaction does occur and no one is sure where your child's EpiPen is.
The actual EpiPen is inside of the clear plastic case. To use the EpiPen, pop open the yellow seal of the case and take the pen out.
1. First, take the blue cap off the top of the Epipen. The cap will pull straight off the top. This will release the needle out of the opposite end of the pen, the end that is coloured orange. Keep the orange end facing down and keep your hands away from it.
2. Once the needle has been released, swing the Epipen down and push the orange end (and the needle) into the mid-outer thigh until you hear a click. This needle is thick, and will go through whatever clothes the person is wearing. Make sure the pen makes a clicking noise, and then I was always told to hold the pen in the thigh to the count of 5 "Mississippi" before taking the EpiPen out. Once the EpiPen is removed, the needle will go back into the body of the pen.
3. Call 911 or get to the emergency room as fast as possible. The speed at which you react is the most important. Even if the Epipen isn't used correctly or doesn't end up doing much, getting to a hospital where some serious medication can be administered if needed is the key.
The outside of the EpiPen also has instructions on the side, just in case. I have always been told that if I can, I should give myself an EpiPen if I feel my reaction is that bad, but it is important for my friends and family to learn how to use one in case my reaction is so serious I am not able to myself.
Have you ever had to use an EpiPen before? What was the experience like?