Uses, Benefits and Side Effects of EpiPens.
EpiPen is a shot given in response to a severe allergic reaction that leads to wheezing, intense itching, drop in blood pressure, insect bites, food or drug reactions, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea and other seasonal allergic reaction symptoms. It also stops the release of chemicals that cause allergies, which further prevents allergic reactions from worsening.
EpiPen actually is just the name of a brand that contains drug epinephrine, a life-saving medicine used in severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis. It may also be used for the treatment of exercise-related anaphylaxis. As soon as it is injected in the body, it affects the entire body, multi-organ, multi-system to combat the allergy reaction. Its works by tightening the blood arteries triggering excessive blood pressure, and reducing swelling. This makes it easier to loosen the muscles around the airways and to open the lungs.
Anaphylaxis and Seasonal Changes
The common cause of seasonal allergies are the allergens that arise due to the change in seasons. These allergens may be pollens, mold, weeds and other airborne allergens. People allergic to them show allergic reactions such as coughing, breathing problem, itchy eyes, rashes, sneezing, running nose etc. These symptoms can be cured by using allergic medications, home remedies or steroids in some conditions.
However, the blooming of flowers and tree production in spring also brings along insects and bugs. People already leading to severe allergic reactions become more prone to life-threatening allergies called anaphylaxis. It is an allergic reaction that is rare but serious. Medical treatment is needed, as the symptoms happen unexpectedly and can escalate rapidly. These severe allergies can also be caused due to food allergen or a drug reaction. Unlike common seasonal allergies, anaphylaxis has more intense symptoms if not treated promptly, may lead to death. Some of the symptoms include:
- Tightening of the air passage, causing shortness of breath and swelling in the throat and tongue.
- Abdominal cramps
- Fainting or dizziness
- Extreme drop or rise in blood pressure
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Worse skin conditions
Anaphylaxis should be treated immediately using an epinephrine injector, which is the first-line drug to treat anaphylaxis.
How Promptly Does An EpiPen Work For Anaphylaxis?
EpiPen shot containing epinephrine is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands is injected in the leg muscle that operates within minutes. Other allergic medications are generally given orally and may take hours to show effect. People with suspicion of anaphylaxis should soon be treated with EpiPen to outweigh the risk of an untreated intense allergic reaction.
Delays in the administration of epinephrine can lead to adverse reactions and even death. Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to seasonal change or any other source should carry an EpiPen with them and promptly use it in the suspicion of an anaphylactic reaction. If you do not find an epinephrine injector, immediately call 911.
After been treated with epinephrine in an anaphylactic reaction, the individual should be brought to an emergency room for further supervision. This is because certain patients with anaphylactic reactions will recover from acute anaphylaxis after multiple hours or even days of symptoms. Others may have biphasic anaphylaxis, which is a replay of the symptoms several hours or days after resolving them. However, epinephrine remains the primary therapy for severe or biphasic anaphylactic reactions.
Side Effects of EpiPens
It is crucial to note any side effects when using EpiPen for the first time. Contact your physician immediately if you notice pain, rash, inflammation, warmth or other signs of infection around the injected area.
Some serious side effects include:
- Breathing difficulty
- Priliciously high blood pressure escorted with headache, blurred vision, anxiety, chest pain, uneven heartbeat, seizure.
- A pale and sweating body
- Severe weakness
- Nervousness or anxiousness
Don’t forget to inform your doctor next time you visit the hospital for any allergic symptoms.
Can Children Use EpiPens?
The EpiPen auto-injector is for patients weighing 66 pounds (30kgs) or more. Epipen Jr auto-injector is for individuals weighing between 33 and 66 pounds (15-30 kgs). There is no evidence to show if Epipen or EpiPen Jr would be safe and effective in individuals who weigh below 33pounds (15kgs).
Using EpiPens With Other Medical Conditions
Before using EpiPen, it is also important to let your doctor know about any other medical conditions you have or had in the past.
- Heart disease or unstable blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Depression, dementia or other mental diseases
- Thyroid disorder
Allergic reactions while pregnancy can affect the health of the mother and the child. If you need to use Epipen during pregnancy or breast-feeding, you should immediately seek medical attention for the safety of you and your baby.
How To Use EpiPens
The injector may be used differently for various brands. However, you should know how to operate it by reading the instructions on the leaflet given along with the injector. Check for the safety seal in the first place and do not use it if the seal in broken. Medicine in the injecter should be clear. If you visualize any particles or discoloration such as cloudy, pink or brown colour, then do not use it and discard it safely.
Before confronting an emergency, it is important to check if the product comes out of its case easily. EpiPen should never be stored in a refrigerator as it can damage the injector mechanism. A single injector contains one dose only and should be cast-off properly after use.
The medication should not be injected into your hands, feet, buttocks or any other area except the thigh. If you injected it in any other place, let your health provider know about it.
EpiPens are the only first-line remedies for severe allergic reactions anaphylaxis. You should be well versed in the difference between a common seasonal reaction and anaphylaxis. You should always consult your doctor for the dosage and requirement of any medication using for the first time. It is also critical to let your doctor know for any other medical conditions or medications you already intake.
Written by: Madiha Ather Hashmi (October 02, 2020)
- Philip Thornton, DipPharm (2020). “EpiPen”. Drugs.com.
- Optum Perks (2021). “What to know about EpiPens for allergies”. Optum.
Medically Reviewed By
I have reviewed the articles on seasonalallergies.org and I would like to say that I was very surprised.
Over years, I have seen many different articles in the field of allergy, but these articles were very interesting.
These articles were really unique, they could help many people around the world to know more about seasonal allergy, symptoms, prevention and when to seek medical advice.
These articles represent an addition in the field of Health Education not only for people with allergy but also for the whole population.
Looking for more information on seasonal allergy lifestyles? See our page on Living With Allergies here.
Last Updated on February 1, 2021