Trying to think of new year’s resolutions? Consider these questions...
- Are your Epipens always within reach?
- Can you use them properly without instructions?
- Will you use them when needed or are you afraid?
Back in February 2014, I came face to face with these questions when my food was accidentally contaminated with peanuts at a London pub. Shortly after I began to feel extremely ill, with wrenching stomach cramps and hay fever like symptoms. A few minutes later, I felt a burning sensation all around my neck and began to be unable to catch my breath. I glanced in the mirror and knew straight away; the tell-tale swelling all over my face confirmed anaphylaxis was developing. As I was already experiencing breathing difficulties I needed to act fast. If you were in my position at that moment, would you know how to react?
EpiPen and EpiPen Jr are auto-injectors used for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Epipens are designed so that you to use them, without assistance, to give time to seek emergency medical treatment. You do not need someone to do it for you. Spending a few minutes every few months refreshing yourself on how to use your Epipen will give you the confidence to use it when you need it. Your mantra needs to be HAVE IT, USE IT.
Using an Epipen is simple:
1. Remove from the protective plastic case
2. Pull off the blue cap completely
3. Place the orange tip on your outer thigh (through clothing or tights is fine)
4. Push the Epipen into your thigh until you hear a click sound, and hold in place for ten seconds
5. Remove it, place safely back in its case and massage the injection site for a few seconds
6. Call 999 if someone has not done this for you already. Remember you can contact emergency services free of charge, from any phone in the EU by calling 112.
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* If you are alone it is extremely important that you self-adminster your Epipen BEFORE calling 999. Doing it the other way around could be fatal.
Always err on the side of caution and use your Epipen if you have reason to believe anaphylaxis is developing. Using an Epipen when not needed is unlikely to cause any ill effects. On the flipside, not using your Epipen, or using it too late, could possibly cost you your life... so USE IT.
I did not take any antihistamines during this reaction; paramedics told me this was the right thing to do as it allowed them to give me a full IV drip dose of more powerful anti-histamines once I was in the back of the ambulance. These worked immediately. Personally, I would question the usefulness of over the counter anti-histamines during an anaphylactic reaction and would suggest always reaching for your Epipen. What does help is a few puffs of a reliever inhaler such as Ventolin.
Another issue to consider is where is your Epipen at any given time? If you are in the car and have a reaction, will you be able to get back to that kitchen cupboard in time? If your child’s Epipen is in school, but a reaction develops halfway home, will you be able to react in time? I cannot stress enough the importance of having your Epipens ALWAYS within arm’s reach, and being able to use it. While adrenaline is a life-saving medication, it cannot save your life if you don’t have it or use it. The difference between being prepared or not prepared could be the difference between life and death.
So ask yourself, are you properly equipped to react to a reaction?