Epinephrine is the treatment of choice for acute anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. Epinephrine is available by prescription in single-dose, pre-filled automatic injection devices. (EpiPen®, Twinject®).
Anything that triggers an allergic reaction can trigger anaphylaxis. This means that anyone with a history of allergies or asthma is at greater risk of developing anaphylaxis (also called "anaphylactic shock").
The most common triggers of anaphylaxis are insect stings, foods (peanuts, shellfish, milk), latex and medications. Everyone at risk for anaphylaxis should be educated in the use of the epinephrine self-injection and allergen avoidance measures.
If you have been prescribed self-injectable epinephrine, keep it with you at all times. It should only be used when someone is developing or likely to develop a serious allergic reaction.
If you, your child or someone you're caring for shows signs or symptoms of an allergic emergency, administer the self-injectable epinephrine immediately, then promptly call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
Failure to inject epinephrine at the first signs of an allergic emergency can be life threatening. Even when epinephrine is used promptly, it is not always effective in cases of severe anaphylactic shock.
It is important to remember the following:
Epinephrine is not a cure for anaphylaxis and repeated treatments may be necessary to keep symptoms of anaphylaxis under control.
1. A second injection of epinephrine may sometimes necessary.
2. Severe allergic reactions can happen anytime, anywhere.
3. Children at risk of anaphylaxis need a support team that is prepared.
4. Epinephrine expires and needs to be replaced regularly.
During anaphylaxis, epinephrine reverses some of the symptom of anaphylaxis by doing the following
Other allergy medications, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids (prednisone) may be prescribed to help manage allergy symptoms, but they will not provide immediate relief of anaphylaxis.
If you have severe allergies, or have been prescribed epinephrine, be sure to obtain a Medicalert bracelet to inform emergency workers or hospital personnel of your allergies and risk of anaphylaxis.