Knowing when and how to use an EpiPen is extremely important. The rate of severe allergic reactions is steadily climbing alongside the steady increase in children with food allergies. If you tossed 20 kids in a room, at least one would have a food allergy. That means there’s a kid in your child’s class or on their soccer team that likely carries an EpiPen. Every single adult needs to know how to use an EpiPen, and honestly, there’s no reason that older children shouldn’t be educated as well. Your child could save a friend’s life one day just because they understand when an how to use an EpiPen.
The current legislature in many states allows EpiPens insecure, public locations in case they are needed. This means that EpiPens are easily located in many places; schools, libraries, public pools, daycares, all may have an EpiPen or two on site for emergency situations.
Before we dive into how to use an EpiPen, it’s important to understand what it is and what it does.
What is an EpiPen?
Throughout this article, I will use the name EpiPen, but understand that EpiPen is just the most widely recognized brand of an epinephrine auto-injector. Any epinephrine auto-injector is designed to allow a person without medical training to easily inject someone having a severe allergic reaction with the drug epinephrine, which should halt the reaction temporarily and could save the person’s life.
If Your Child has an EpiPen
There should always be two EpiPens at any given location when financially possible. Two at home. Two in the car. Two at school. The reason for this is simple; something could go wrong with the first shot. Or your child’s reaction could start again once the first shot wears off (in about 20minutes) and they might need a second dose before EMS arrives.
EpiPens are expensive, but, epinephrine degrades after about a year. Using an expired epipen likely would not be harmful, but the medication might not be as effective.
The steps to use an EpiPen seem simple. But in an emergency situation, it’s easy to get flustered with the smallest tasks. Practicing how to use an EpiPen often will help you remain calm and go through all the steps appropriately.
Most EpiPen prescriptions come with a trainer, use that to practice. If you can’t find it, there are epipen trainers available on Amazon.
Everyone that cares for your child should know how to use an EpiPen. This means the preschool teacher, bus driver, soccer coach, friend’s parents, anyone that your child could spend time with should know how to use their EpiPen and where you keep them.
If Your Child’s Friend has an EpiPen
If your child has a friend with a severe allergy, learning to prevent an allergic reaction will not only help the kid’s parents feel more comfortable with you but will also help you keep the friend safe. Ask questions about the child’s allergy. Learn to read food labels and purchase safe foods for the child to snack on.
Learn and Practice
Learn how to use an EpiPen and practice with an EpiPen trainer! The child’s parents will help you learn and practice.
When to Use an EpiPen
The most common mistake folks make when it comes to using an EpiPen, is failing to use it or not using it sooner. It’s much worse not to use an EpiPen on a child who needs it than to give a dose to a child who doesn’t.
These are some common signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction:
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Complaining that their mouth hurts
- Appearing pale or weak
- Dizziness or acting strangely, signifying blood pressure has dropped
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hives or rash on the skin
- Complaining of itchiness
This list is NOT an exhaustive list, there can be many other symptoms that accompany severe allergic reactions, but these are some of the most common. Every person reacts uniquely to their allergen.
How to Use an EpiPen
- Review each child’s action plan.
- Know where each child’s EpiPen is – locate it.
- Take the EpiPen out of its case.
- Hold it in a firm fist-grip.
- Remove the cap.
- Make sure the child is sitting or lying down.
- Identify the big muscle in the thigh.
- Hold the leg and the child steadily.
- Press the orange part firmly against the thigh so that it clicks – stay there, don’t bounce.
- Hold for 10 seconds – Press, Click and Hold.
You’ll notice that you don’t need to remove clothing. That’s because the needle is sharp enough to go through most clothing. Don’t waste time by removing clothes, use the EpiPen.
What to do After You Use an EpiPen
Anytime you use an EpiPen, the individual must go to the hospital, and in most scenarios, calling 911 is advised. The epinephrine in the EpiPen typically wears off within 20 minutes- which is why having a second EpiPen is so essential. So, even if the child appears to be doing fine after you used an EpiPen, you still need to go to the hospital incase the reaction resumes or gets worse.
Sound Scary? Check out this quick video from Nationwide Children’s Hospital:
When you need to use an EpiPen, you need to know what to do and act quickly.
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