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ARTICLES

About the EpiPen

EpiPen, EpiPen Jr. and Allerex are registered trademarks.

For more complete information read the EpiPen brochure and look at the Allerex web site.

Note re Expiry dates: the FDA in the US (which makes all of the EpiPens that we Canadians get) initiated a new policy about 1 year ago (2002) that sets the limit of the shelf life of an EpiPen at no more than 16 months. There is nothing we can do about this situation. The best advice is to purchase from a large chain/ high volume store (Shoppers Drug, Walmart etc.) where they are bringing in new stock on a weekly basis, thus, getting the best date possible. OR. try callling the pharmacy one month prior and ask them to specifically order an EpiPen for you.

Quick essentials about the EpiPen:

  • EpiPens deliver epinephrine (also known as adrenalin).
  • There are two strengths: - EpiPen Jr. for children up to 15 kg (33 lbs.) And EpiPen for adults. Be sure to consult your doctor when your child approaches the weight limit.
  • When ordering, get the latest expiry date you can (phone around the pharmacies) and replace it when past the expiry date.
  • You can reduce the cost by phoning around the pharmacies - dispensing fees vary.
  • EpiPens are best delivered on the skin, but can, in certain circumstances, be given through clothing.
  • There are no ill effects to giving the EpiPen in a life-threatening (allergy) situation. Consult your doctor for your specific case.
  • Trainer pens with no needle are available for training yourself or others to use the EpiPen (see Subject Index)

This information comes from a brochure from Center Laboratories, Division of EM Pharmaceuticals, Inc., USA and distributed in Canada by Allerex Laboratory Ltd., Kanata, Ontario. Allerex is the Canadian distributor of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr.

To get a brochure, call Allerex or the Food Allergy Network (U.S.). Trainer EpiPens (no needle or medication) are excellent devices for training others to use the EpiPen properly. Also available from the Allergy/Asthma Information Association (Canada) or the Food Allergy Network (U.S.).

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What is the EpiPen Auto-Injector?
The EpiPen Auto-Injector is a disposable drug delivery system with a spring-activated, concealed needle. It is designed for emergency self-administration to provide rapid, convenient first-aid for individuals sensitive to potentially fatal allergic reactions.

What is the active ingredient?
The active ingredient is epinephrine. Injection of epinephrine is the treatment of choice for allergic emergencies (anaphylactic reactions) because it quickly constricts blood vessels, relaxes smooth muscles in the lungs to improve breathing, stimulates the heartbeat, and works to reverse hives and swelling around the face and lips (angioedema). The EpiPen Auto-Injector is a disposable drug delivery system with a spring-activated, concealed needle. It is designed for emergency self-administration to provide rapid, convenient first-aid for individuals sensitive to potentially fatal allergic reactions.

Why might I need an EpiPen Auto-Injector?
The EpiPen is commonly prescribed for individuals who have had prior severe allergic reactions to certain foods such as nuts, shellfish or eggs, etc. or certain food additives; to drugs such as penicillin ; to insect stings by bees, hornets, yellow jackets, etc. ; or to exercise. Such an allergic reaction may be so severe as to be life-threatening and could occur when no physician or hospital is near. Expanded labelling indicates use of an EpiPen for temporary emergency treatment of severe life-threatening asthma attacks. With an EpiPen, an emergency injection of epinephrine can be immediately available.

Why was the EpiPen Auto-Injector developed?
Initially this auto-injector design was developed for the military to deliver antidotes in the event of poison gas attack. It was ideal because of the need for a fast, convenient easy method of giving life-saving medication in a high stress situation. Subsequently, the same auto-injector system was used with other drugs as part of the NASA Manned Space Flight Program. The EpiPen Auto-Injector resulted from the realization that patients experiencing serious allergic reactions may also be fearful of injecting themselves with life-saving medication or incapable of using a conventional syringe.

How does the EpiPen Auto-Injector work?
The EpiPen is simple to use and the absence of a visible needle helps to minimize fear and resistance to self-injection. Activate the EpiPen by:

  1. Remove the gray safety cap
  2. Hold the EpiPen (firmly) with the black tip against the thigh (do not cover the end of the EpiPen with your thumb!!)
  3. Apply moderate pressure and hold for several seconds. (Count to 10) Discard the unit.
  4. [Webmaster note] Call 911 or emergency medical assistance.

Pushing the EpiPen against the thigh releases a spring activated plunger, pushing the concealed needle into the thigh muscle and expelling a dose of epinephrine.

Pics of giving the Epipen

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Where should the EpiPen be placed for injection?
The EpiPen should simply be pushed against the fleshy outer portion of the thigh. There is no need for more precise placement. DO NOT ATTEMPT INJECTION INTO A VEIN OR INTO BUTTOCKS.

What will I feel when I use an EpiPen Auto-Injector?
The injection itself is actually quite painless. Upon removing the EpiPen after injection, you will see a short needle protruding. In most instances, the beneficial effects of the drug will be felt within seconds. The most common changes you may feel are a more rapid heart beat and a slight nervousness, "like a shot of adrenalin". Even though a residual amount of material remains within an EpiPen after use, the unit cannot be used again and should be properly discarded.

Can the EpiPen Auto-Injector be used through clothing?
Yes, if necessary. The preferred method is to remove your clothing from the site of injection. However, if this is too difficult or awkward, or if there is no time the EpiPen may be used directly through your clothing.

After using an EpiPen Auto-Injector, what else must I do?
The EpiPen is intended for emergency use only. After use, you should try to get further medical help immediately. At the same time, try to keep warm and avoid unnecessary exertion. The effects of the injection begin to wear off after 10 to 20 minutes, therefore it is important that you should seek further medical assistance. Make certain you tell health professionals who will treat you that you have given yourself an injection of epinephrine.

Does the EpiPen come in different strengths?
Yes, EpiPens come in two strengths:
Adults-- use EpiPen (Yellow label) with 0.3 mg dose
Young children up to 15 kg (33 lbs)--use EpiPen Jr. (White label) with 0.15 mg dose
Both strengths deliver a single dose. Sometimes a single dose of epinephrine may not be enough to completely reverse the effects of an anaphylactic reaction. For that reason, some physicians prescribe more than one auto-injector. Also, some patients like to keep one unit at home, one on their person, and one at their place of work to ensure than an EpiPen is available at all times.

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How and where can I obtain an EpiPen Auto-Injector?
See your physician first. The EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. are available from most pharmacies.

Are there any special tips or precautions I should know?
The EpiPen Auto-Injector is quite durable, but like any instrument, it can be damaged if mishandled.

  • Remove the gray safety cap ONLY when you are ready to use the EpiPen, otherwise the unit could be activated prematurely.
  • Never put your fingers over the black tip when removing the safety cap, or after the safety cap has been removed.
  • Epinephrine is stable at room temperature until the marked expiration date. EpiPen should not be refrigerated; refrigeration for extended period of time may cause the unit to malfunction.
  • EpiPen should not be exposed to extreme heat, such as in the glove compartment or trunk of a car during the summer.
  • Do not expose the EpiPen to direct sunlight; light and heat can cause epinephrine to oxidize and go bad, turning brown.
  • Check contents of the cartridge periodically through the viewing window to make sure the solution is clear and colorless. If the solution appears brown, replace the unit immediately.
  • Always replace your EpiPen with a fresh unit prior to the expiration date.

Please refer to the brochure in the EpiPen case for more detailed product (clinical) information.

Terms of Use: The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.   Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions or concerns. 


 

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