What is an Epipen?
Epipens contain adrenaline that is injected into the outer part of the thigh in a medical emergency. Epipens are often carried by people at risk of having a life threatening allergic reaction. This is also known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock start to show within minutes of exposure to the allergen. They differ depending on the individual and the allergy, but may include:
- Itchy skin
- Raised rash similar to nettle rash
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, throat, hands and feet
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Occasionally, loss of consciousness
What does an Epipen do?
The active substance in an Epipen is 300 micrograms of adrenaline, which is an adrenergic drug. This works on the heart, circulation and lungs to relax the muscles, shrink the size of the blood vessels, reduce swelling and stimulate the heartbeat and prevent potentially fatal anaphylaxis.
The Epipen is an autoinjector, designed to be administered by the person suffering the anaphylactic shock. The Epipen is an emergency measure and must be followed up by proper medical attention.
Talk to your doctor before using an Epipen if any of the following apply to you:
- You have heart disease
- You have an overactive thyroid
- You have high blood pressure
- You have diabetes
- You’re elderly
- You’re pregnant
- You have glaucoma
- You have severe kidney problems
- You have a tumour in your prostate
- You have Parkinson’s disease
- You have high calcium levels or low potassium levels in your blood
- You are taking other medicines, as there is a chance they might interact with the Epipen
How do you use an Epipen?
Always use your Epipen as directed by your doctor and read the patient information leaflet before using it. If you are at all unsure about how to administer the Epipen in an emergency, you should speak to a healthcare professional.
Be sure to use the Epipen dosage recommended for you by your doctor. The one available to buy on this page is the standard 0.3mg dosage of adrenaline.
When you use the Epipen, it delivers 0.3ml of liquid into your body. This liquid contains the adrenaline. The Epipen is designed to be injected into the outer part of the thigh.
You jab the pen into the outside of your thigh (never your buttock) from a distance of approximately 10cm / 4in. It doesn’t need to be precisely placed, and the Epipen can be injected through clothes. On impact, a spring activated plunger releases the needle and administers the injection.
Some liquid will remain in the Epipen after it has been used, but this is perfectly normal. You should not attempt to use this liquid up and you should never reuse the needle.
In the event of an accidental injection, you should go to your nearest accident and emergency department for emergency help.
How effective are Epipens?
Epipens are clinically proven as emergency treatment for a life threatening allergic reaction. For very serious reactions, however, one dose of adrenaline might not be sufficient.
If your symptoms haven’t improved within 5-15 minutes, or your condition has deteriorated, you should use another Epipen to administer another dose of adrenaline. For this reason, you should always carry more than one Epipen with you.
You should also be sure to get medical attention as soon as possible after using an Epipen.
What are the main side effects of using an Epipen?
Like all medicines, Epipen can cause side effects, although not everyone will experience them.
Three common side effects of Epipen are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
For a full list of Epipen side effects, please see the patient information leaflet.