By Carla Benjamin, Army Public Health Nursing, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center
Millions of Americans are diagnosed with some type of allergy.
During an allergic response, the body overreacts to a threat that it perceives as foreign.
Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2011, indicate that “The prevalence of food and skin allergies (such as eczema) increased in children under age 18 years from 1997–2011.”
Allergic reactions may be life threatening and come on suddenly. This is known as anaphylaxis. Often, anaphylaxis causes symptoms that affect multiple body areas such as the heart, blood vessels and breathing.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most severe allergic reactions are caused by latex, foods, insect stings and medication.
Epinephrine is a medication that is often prescribed to treat suspected severe allergies or individuals with a history of anaphylaxis. In these individuals, the sooner an exposure is recognized and treated, the better the outcome.
For this, many people rely on epinephrine auto-injectors. In the United States, there are several brands of auto-injectors commonly known as EpiPen, Adrenaclick and Auvi-Q. Generic versions also are available.
Manufacturers of these prescription devices, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that two devices be on hand and readily accessible at all times.
However, many people may be unaware and separate the twin pack. For example, a parent may store one auto-injector from the twin pack at the child’s school and the other at home. This practice is not recommended.
Several studies have shown that in 18 to 35 percent of cases, the first dose may not be as effective as desired. In addition, the symptoms may subside but return before the arrival of emergency medical treatment.
Lastly, there is always a chance of human error when attempting to administer the first dose, requiring the use of the second device.
Remember to always call 911 after using the first epinephrine auto-injector.
Discuss your allergy reaction with your health care provider to determine the safest way to avoid the allergens and prepare for an emergency. Protect yourself or those you love with potentially, life-threatening allergies by getting all the facts.
If prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, well before an emergency, make sure you are familiar with all instructions including proper use and storage.