Food allergy diagnosis – check
Allergen avoidance – check
Epinephrine auto-injector on hand at all times - check
You are prepared for an emergency.
But are you confident about how to use an epinephrine auto-injector?
A recent study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) shows the misuse of epinephrine auto-injectors. 102 patients with prescribed epinephrine participated in the study. Of these, 16% properly demonstrated how to use the epinephrine auto-injector. That means the remaining 84% did not know how to use the device correctly. 84%!!!
You cannot save your own life or the life of someone you care for during an anaphylactic reaction if you do not know how to properly use an epinephrine auto-injector. I cannot stress this point enough. An auto-injector is useless unless you know how to use it.
Most cases of anaphylaxis that result in death are due to delayed epinephrine administration or not using epinephrine at all.
An anaphylactic reaction is going to be terrifying and emotional.
Your hands may shake.
You may fumble while finding the auto-injector.
You may second-guess if you truly need to use it.
Your heart will be racing.
You may have to restrain the child before administering.
You may panic.
Despite all of this, you MUST be able to properly administer the epinephrine. A life will depend on it.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
It’s important to know that there are multiple brands of auto-injectors on the market. All manufacturers of epinephrine auto-injectors have videos on their website demonstrating how to use their product. Be sure you are familiar with the brand that you will need to use in case of anaphylaxis.
In addition to knowing how to use it, you have to know when to use it. When to use epinephrine should be specifically documented in an Emergency Care Plan by your allergist. In my opinion, an Emergency Care Plan is the single most important piece of paper a person with food allergies should have. If you do not have a care plan, work with your allergist to create one specific to your/your child’s unique diagnosis.
While we’re talking about auto-injectors, a few items to know:
- Auto-injectors expire. Refill when needed.
- Auto-injectors are temperature sensitive and should never be left in a car (hot or cold).
- You should always have 2 epinephrine auto-injectors with you. Why 2? (see graphic below)
Successful treatment of anaphylaxis depends on 3 things:
- You must have epinephrine on hand at all times.
- You must know when to use it.
- You must be confident about how to use it.
Are you confident? If not, now is the time to speak up.