When to use the EpiPen

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Many food allergy related deaths are the result of the lack of access to epihephrine-a life saving medication. Some people do not know they have a food allergy, do not think their allergy is that severe, or feel they are capable enough of avoiding foods that cause reactions. Unfortunately food allergies can come and go at anytime in a persons life and any one prior reaction is not an indication of subsequent reactions.

So, what is one to do? All individuals with potentially life threatening food allergies should have an emergency care plan or food allergy action plan from their allergist. They should also carry an EpiPen with them at all times. While it may at times seem unnecessary or an inconvenience to do so, it could mean the difference between life and death.

What reactions warrant an epi-pen? This is where an emergency care plan comes in handy. Your allergist should discuss with you, and put in writing, what reactions are considered severe for you or your child. Not all allergies are created equal and not all reactions are the same per individual. However, most allergists agree that for most allergic individuals an EpiPen is needed if the reaction affects two systems. For example, hives alone may not require an EpiPen in most individuals but hives and an itchy tongue would. All allergists agree that when in doubt, administer epihephrine.

What about Benadryl? Benadryl is an anti-histamine and NOT a life saving medication. If a reaction is life threatening, Benadryl will not prevent that. Bendaryl can however help with mild or single system reactions. It is important to remember that Benadryl can wear off and allergic reactions can come back.

If you or your child has asthma, you should be especially cautious as individuals with asthma are more prone to severe allergic reactions. What might seem like an asthma attack could be anaphylaxis.

Points to remember: Always carry at minimum-one EpiPen. Two is better. Have an emergency care plan so that you are prepared in the event of a reaction. When in doubt, administer epihephrine. Check your EpiPens. They DO expire. EpiPens must be kept at room temperature. They can not get too hot or too cold for prolonged periods of time. If the liquid looks cloudy you should get a new EpiPen.

Always discuss your allergies and plan with your allergist or a medial professional.

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