What is an EpiPen?
The EpiPen Auto-Injector 0.3 mg Adrenaline (also referred to throughout this information as an EpiPen) is an injectable treatment for severe allergic reactions (also known as anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis).
Anaphylaxis is a serious onset allergic reaction that can be lethal to a person having an attack. Immediate action should always be taken if a person is suffering from anaphylactic shock as often they can be fatal.
The medicine in the auto-injector pen is adrenaline which is an adrenergic drug. Each EpiPen Auto-injector device delivers one single dose of 0.3 ml liquid (equal to 0.3 mg or 300 micrograms) adrenaline. It is intended to be self-administered by a person that has been recognised with a history of severe allergic reactions.
The EpiPen comes in the form of a small applicator that is protectively sealed for one-time use. The EpiPen is a sterile solution of adrenaline used in an emergency during a sudden life-threatening allergic reaction. The injection is designed to be administered into the outer part of the thigh or intramuscular muscle.
A person may go into anaphylactic shock after coming into contact with a severe allergen. Sometimes, the allergy may even be unknown to the person. An allergic reaction happens when the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream, trying to protect itself from the foreign object.
The EpiPen is to be used for the emergency treatment of sudden life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to insect stings or bites, foods, drugs, and exercise.
For further information on an EpiPen and its use, please see the patient information leaflet.
How it works
The EpiPen acts instantly by releasing adrenaline into the system, affecting the cardiovascular (heart and circulation) system and respiratory (lung) system.
EpiPen is fast-acting and works to relax the muscles in the airways, reduce swelling, and increase blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. Adrenaline stimulates the heartbeat and improves breathing for a person suffering anaphylactic shock.
EpiPen is only to be used in a case of emergency for anaphylactic shock. Symptoms that signal the onset of anaphylactic shock can show within minutes of exposure to an allergen.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- Itching or irritation of the skin such as a raised rash (appears like nettle rash)
- Inflammation such as swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, hands and feet
- Breathing difficulties, wheezing, shortness of breath
- Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps
- In extreme cases, loss of consciousness
Before you take it
An EpiPen is an emergency treatment that should be used as soon as possible upon first signs that a person is having an anaphylactic reaction.
There are no known reasons why anyone should not use EpiPen during an allergic emergency.
The EpiPen throughout this information is intended for use by people with a body weight greater than 25kg (3 stone 13lbs). For people under 25kg, an alternative EpiPen, the EpiPen Jr., may be a more appropriate pen for use.
It is important to take regular checks of your EpiPen. Do not use this medicine if you notice that the liquid is unclear, discoloured, or contains any solid particles.
Do not use this medicine after the expiry date. You will find the expiry date situated on the label and carton.
You may need to replace the Auto-injector sooner if the solution appears coloured or contains any solid particles.
Although most people can use the EpiPen, special care must be taken for a person with specific conditions or illnesses. Contact your doctor or health care professional if any of the following apply to you:
- You have an overactive thyroid
- You have diabetes
- You have an overactive thyroid
- You have high blood pressure
- You are elderly
- You have severe kidney problems
- You have or are taking treatment for heart disease (there is an increased risk of angina)
For a full list of precautions, please see the patient information leaflet.
We do not prescribe any medication to people under 18 years old.
Always use the EpiPen exactly as your doctor has advised. If you are unsure about how to use it, ask to have the instructions explained by your doctor, nurse or by a medical professional.
It is advised that you ensure your family members, carers, and teachers are instructed in the correct use of an EpiPen.
As the exact amount can vary slightly from person to person, the dosage for you will be decided by your doctor. Please note, after use, a small amount of 1.7ml will remain in the injector. This cannot be reused.
The usual dose for allergic emergencies in adults: 0.3 mg (one injection) of adrenaline into muscle (intramuscular use such as the thigh).
The EpiPen can be used through clothing if necessary.
Sometimes, a single dose of adrenaline may not be enough to completely alleviate the onset of an anaphylactic reaction. Due to this, it is likely your doctor will prescribe more than one EpiPen for you.
If the symptoms have not improved or have worsened 5-15 minutes after initial administration, a second injection may be required. It is important to always carry at least two EpiPens with you.
Method of administration:
In anaphylactic emergency, hold the EpiPen from the centre with the orange tip facing down toward the muscle.
Remove the blue cap, and from a distance of approximately 10cm, jab the EpiPen firmly into the outer thigh for 3 seconds.
Once jabbed, a spring activator will release the hidden needle into the thigh muscle, administering a dose of adrenaline.
The injection has now been completed. The window on the autoinjector will be obscured.
Remove EpiPen (the orange needle cover will extend over to cover needle) and safely discard.
Call 999 for Emergency services. Ask for ambulance and state anaphylaxis.
It is important to remember to always hold the EpiPen by the middle of the device, never by the ends. Never place hands, fingers, or thumbs over the orange tip. The blue safety cap should not be removed until ready to use.
The EpiPen should not be injected into the buttocks.
Common Side Effects of EpiPen
Like all medicines, an EpiPen may cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.
Possible but less serious side effects of the EpiPen are:
- Heart palpitations, rapid heartbeats or irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Sweating, vomiting, or nausea
- Hypertension, tremor
- Difficulty breathing
- Anxiety or nervousness
Is EpiPen suitable for children?
EpiPen can be used by children, however is is advised to consult your doctor first.
EpiPen is intended for use by people with a body weight greater than 25kg (3 stone 13 lbs). The EpiPen Jr. may be more appropriate for use for people that weigh less than 25kg.
Do I need a prescription?
Yes. This treatment is available as a prescription treatment only. You can order and buy the EpiPen through our online pharmacy following a free consultation.
I’m pregnant. Can I use an EpiPen?
Seek medical advice before using any medication during pregnancy as there is limited experience of using adrenaline during pregnancy.
If going into anaphylactic shock while pregnant, do not hesitate using EpiPen in an emergency as you and your baby’s lives may be at risk. Please consult your doctor if you are pregnant.
What happens if I take too much?
In case of overdose or accidental administration of EpiPen, seek immediate medical help.