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EpiPen: uses, dosage, and drug information

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Updated on February 15, 2016

An EpiPen is a disposable, pre-filled automatic injector that is used to administer epinephrine during anaphylaxis, a severe response to allergies. The epinephrine dose is injected into the outer thigh. Epinephrine works by:

  • Relaxing the muscles located in the airways to enable the patient to breathe more easily
  • Reversing the speedy and potentially life-threatening fall of blood pressure
  • Relaxing the muscles located in the bladder and the intestines as well as the stomach

Epinephrine is also indicated for exercise-induced anaphylaxis. After using an EpiPen, the person experiencing anaphylactic shock is typically placed in an emergency room as quickly as possible. This is because the patient may require additional treatment or urgent attention in case another allergic reaction takes place.

History of EpiPens

The EpiPen was invented by Sher Kaplan, a former NASA engineer who worked at Survival Technologies in Maryland. The auto-injector that Kaplan invented was used to administer a nerve antidote to the military. EpiPen became available to the public in 1980, with millions of prescriptions being sold since.

For more than 25 year, EpiPen has been prescribed as the number one epinephrine injector primarily due to its efficacy and ease of use. While any severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylaxis, it is mostly caused by food allergies. Some of the signs to watch for severe allergic reactions include the following.

  • Blocking of the airways
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Hives
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of control of bowel movements
  • Stomach pain
  • Weak pulse

How to Use an EpiPen

EpiPen comes with a medication guide that the patient must read before using. Depending on the laws of your state and the level of training, you may seek the help of a first aid provider when using injectable such as EpiPen. Nonetheless, EpiPen is used as follows:

  • Start removing the EpiPen from its package. This is done by unscrewing the yellow cap container
  • Remove the gray and yellow safety cap from the back of EpiPen. Note that you have to remove the cap for EpiPen to work.
  • Inject the epinephrine into the outer thigh by first holding the EpiPen against the thigh and pressing the back rounded tip. Be sure to hold the EpiPen into place up to the count of 10. You can inject the pen through your clothes.
  • Discard the EpiPen properly after use
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Dosing and Where to Buy

The doctor determines the epinephrine dosage. While the EpiPen comes with instructions for use and dosage, do not change your individual dose in case it is different with what is indicated on the package’s label. The amount of epinephrine to be injected per patient, as well as the intervals of injection, depend on the strength of the medicine. Below is a typical dose for an EpiPen injection.

  • Patients weighing more than or equal to 30 kgs – EpiPen 0.3 mg
  • Patients weighing 15 to 30 kgs – EpiPen Jr 0.15 mg

You can buy an EpiPen from the pharmacy or drugstore but only if you have a doctor’s prescription.

How to Save on EpiPen

You can save substantial amounts of money on your EpiPen by visiting Optum Perks and finding your prescription. You’ll find discounted prices in your area and could save up to 75%.