What is an EpiPen?

26th February 2019

What is an EpiPen?

The EpiPen is a medical injection that contains Epinephrine, an active ingredient that helps narrow the blood vessels that open the airways. This medical breakthrough has become a necessity for many families with children who suffer from very severe allergies. The EpiPen counters severe side effects of allergic attacks such as uneven breathing, swelling of the face or extremities, irregular heartbeat, wheezing, and other possible fatal reactions. EpiPens treat anaphylaxis or allergic reactions which may be triggered by food, drugs, or other allergens, as well as insect bites. They are often prescribed to patients with a history of heightened risks such as anaphylactic shock.

The EpiPen is fast acting and the results can be seen immediately. However it is not long lasting, so the patient must still seek emergency medical assistance as soon as possible.

How does the Epipen work?

EpiPens have active ingredients known as epinephrine, a certain type of adrenaline. This hormone is naturally occurring in the body and is often released by the adrenal glands in moments of stress or emergency. This hormone allows the body to deal with life-threatening or fatal situations. The EpiPen releases epinephrine via injection to treat fatal allergic reactions known as anaphylactic shock. The EpiPen will immediately control the symptoms of the allergies such as difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, feeling sick, weak pulse, itching of the skin, wheezing, and more.

As EpiPen works on alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors on our body. Within minutes, the allergic reactions are arrested and the body returns to normal. The beta receptors are found in the lungs and heart, and the alpha receptors are located on the walls of blood vessels.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, otherwise known as ‘anaphylactic shock’ is referred to as an allergic reaction. This medical condition impacts the throat, tissues around the whole body, and airways. The impact around the airways and throat is what makes the condition an emergency concern. The airways can suddenly close, leading the victim to lose consciousness and worse, die. In this case, a timely treatment with using an EpiPen can be a lifesaver.

How to use EpiPens

If you are a patient suffering from severe allergies, be sure to always have an EpiPen with you wherever you go. You must know how to use the pen in case of an emergency, or have people close to you who know how to use the pen. Additionally, it's important to know that the EpiPens come in two colours: green which is best for kids aged 5 and below; and orange which is fit for patients 5 years and older. To use the EpiPen, you must first remove the safety cap. As you hold the EpiPen, have your thumb wrapped over the front or the sides of the pen. It is crucial as the needle is spring loaded. Place the pen against the side of the patient’s legs. If the patient is wearing denim trousers, make sure that the EpiPen will not be applied over the seams. As you press the pen, you will hear a clicking sound. The sound indicates that the needle is activated and it can be injected.

You must hold the EpiPen for about ten to fifteen seconds before you remove it, and then rub the injection site so the medicine can circulate faster. After injecting, place the needle guard over the pen. It covers the needle because the EpiPen can be used multiple times. There's also a space in the label where you fill out the date and time when the pen was used.

Use EpiPens with caution

While EpiPens are lifesavers for most people with allergies, there are some people who must proceed with caution when using them. Those who have diabetes or hyperthyroidism should be careful, as should those with any heart problems (irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease).