Monday, July 1, 2013

Choosing an Epinephrine Auto-Injector for Your Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

If you have the potential to experience an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen (whether it’s to food, medication, insect venom, or something else), you need to carry at least one (preferably two) epinephrine auto-injectors. So let’s talk about epinephrine choices on the market today.

Epinephrine is a form of adrenaline that is injected into the outer thigh during a severe reaction. The sooner you administer it, the more likely it is that the allergic reaction will be controlled and the patient will survive. The later you administer it, the longer the reaction has to take hold, and the harder it may be to control. It’s practically a miracle drug – it can stop an allergic reaction in its tracks, or at the very least slow it down. It’s been around for decades, and it used to be the only medicine available for asthma attacks.

Physicians are now saying that epinephrine should be considered the first line of defense, rather than an antihistamine like Benadryl, if the reaction appears to be severe. There are no situations where doctors say you should NOT give epinephrine if the patient is experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

A dose of epinephrine may only last about 20 minutes, and a reaction can last much longer, so that’s why you should have two injectors, and why you should always call 911 when you’ve administered one. And the allergic person should be monitored for at least 24 hours after injections, in case a secondary reaction occurs.

There are now four choices of epinephrine auto-injectors, since a generic version has come onto the market:
  • EpiPen: For years, the EpiPen has been the gold standard of epinephrine auto-injectors for treating anaphylactic allergic reactions. See for more information and for a video on how to use one correctly. Your doctor or pharmacist can show you how to use one, using a trainer (which has no needle or medicine in it).
  • Auvi-Q: The new Auvi-Q auto-injector is making a big splash lately, because of its new size and shape (rectangular and flat – smaller than a cell phone, so that it fits in a pocket) as well as its audio instructions. Yes, it talks you through the injection process using a small computer chip in the case. See for info and a training video.
  • Adrenaclick: Similar to an EpiPen, the Adrenaclick doesn’t require you to jab your thigh – you put it against your thigh and then press firmly. See for more information and for a training video.
  • Generic: A generic version of the Adrenaclick auto-injector is now available. Because it is a generic, some pharmacies and health insurance companies may automatically substitute it for the auto-injector you thought you were getting, so be sure you know exactly which auto-injector you’re getting, and be sure you’re trained to use whatever you get. Apparently this generic is causing some confusion when patients are trained on the EpiPen and then receive a generic auto-injector at the pharmacy, for example. Here is the website for more info:


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