EpiPen Etiquette: What to Do in an Allergic Emergency and How to Be Prepared

EpiPen Etiquette: What to Do in an Allergic Emergency and How to Be Prepared


In a world where allergies affect millions, being prepared for an allergic emergency isn’t just responsible—it can be life-saving. Imagine this – you’re out with friends, enjoying a meal, when suddenly, someone shows signs of a severe allergic reaction. Knowing how to respond swiftly and confidently can make all the difference. This guide on EpiPen etiquette empowers you with the knowledge to handle an allergic emergency effectively. Let’s dive in and ensure you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.

What Is Anaphylaxis: Understanding the Allergic Emergency

An allergic emergency, or anaphylaxis, is like a sudden storm in your body triggered by an allergen. It’s a severe, life-threatening reaction that demands immediate action.

  • The Mechanism of Anaphylaxis: During an allergic emergency or anaphylaxis, your body’s immune system overreacts to an allergen, triggering the release of chemicals like histamine. These chemicals cause changes in the body such as the widening of the blood vessels, which leads to a drop in blood pressure and swelling, especially in the throat and tongue, and can be life-threatening.
  • Mild/Moderate Allergic Reactions: Sometimes, a person may experience mild-to-moderate symptoms before anaphylaxis, like swelling of the lips, face, or eyes; tingling in the mouth; hives; and abdominal pain or vomiting (especially for insect allergies).
  • Anaphylaxis Symptoms: Anaphylaxis symptoms can include swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing or noisy breathing, a drop in blood pressure, wheezing or coughing, difficulty talking, hoarse voice, persistent dizziness, collapse, or becoming pale and floppy (mostly in young children). If untreated, it can lead to shock, coma, or death.
  • Allergens That Can Trigger Anaphylaxis: Common allergens that can trigger anaphylaxis include foods (like nuts, shellfish, and eggs), insect stings, medications (such as penicillin), and latex. Understanding this process emphasises the importance of prompt treatment with epinephrine to counteract these effects and prevent a potentially life-threatening outcome.

Act Fast: What to Do in an Allergic Emergency

In an allergic emergency like anaphylaxis, swift action can be life-saving. Here’s what you should do:

  • First Aid: Help the person lie down with their feet up if possible. Ensure their airway is clear and any tight clothing is loosened. Call emergency services right away and stay until they arrive.
  • Use EpiPen: Administer the EpiPen promptly; this life-saving device can be the difference between life and death in an allergic emergency. In the next section, we will see how to administer it properly.

Understanding the EpiPen: How Does This Life-Saving Device Work?

  • First, it constricts blood vessels, helping to increase blood pressure and reduce swelling.
  • It makes it easier to breathe by relaxing the muscles around the airways.
  • It inhibits the release of histamine and other chemicals, helping to stop the allergic reaction in its tracks.

Understanding when and how to use the EpiPen is crucial for managing severe allergies.

When to Use Your Epi-Pen?

Recognising the signs of anaphylaxis early and acting promptly can be life-saving. Knowing when to use your EpiPen® is crucial in managing anaphylactic reactions.

  • Recognise Symptoms: Be alert for signs like difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue or throat, hoarse voice, wheezing, dizziness, or collapse, which may follow milder allergic reactions.
  • Act Promptly: Use your EpiPen® at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction, especially if you experience swelling leading to breathing difficulties, chest tightness, or confusion.
  • Trust Your Instincts: Some people sense an impending reaction, described as a “sense of doom.” If you feel something is wrong, don’t hesitate to use your EpiPen®.

Being prepared and knowing how to use it correctly can make a significant difference in an emergency.

EpiPen® in Action: How to Use It Like a Pro

Mastering the use of EpiPen® can be a game-changer in managing severe allergic reactions. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using the EpiPen:

  1. Take the EpiPen® out of its tube.
  2. Hold it with the orange tip down and the blue cap up.
  3. Remove the blue safety cap by pulling straight up on it.
  4. Place the orange tip on the outer mid-thigh. Remember, it can be applied through clothing.
  5. Pierce the thigh with the auto-injector until you hear a click.
  6. Hold it firmly in place for 3 seconds.
  7. Seek emergency medical help immediately.

Remember, every minute matters in an anaphylactic reaction, so being prepared and knowing what to do is crucial. Master the steps and recall: “Blue to the sky, Orange to the thigh.”

After Using EpiPen®: What to Do Next

  • Call emergency services immediately after using EpiPen® for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and seek medical monitoring for at least four hours.
  • Record the time at which the EpiPen® was given.
  • Give a second EpiPen® dose if symptoms persist after 5-15 minutes.
  • Keep the used EpiPen® and hand it to ambulance or hospital staff for disposal.

Always Carry Your EpiPen®

  • Carry your EpiPen® Auto-Injector with you at all times and use it immediately at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction.
  • Have it on hand in various locations such as your bag, EpiPen® carrier, home, cottage, work, school, daycare, camp, and gym.

Allergy Preparedness: Be Ready to Avoid Triggers

  • Maintain a list of allergens to avoid, including foods you may be allergic to, insect stings, latex, medications, and exercise-induced allergens.
  • Wear medical identification (e.g., bracelet or necklace) and carry a medical card with allergy info for quick identification and treatment in emergencies.
  • Educate your family and friends about your allergies and get regular allergy checkups to ensure they know how to help in case of an emergency.


Being prepared for an allergic emergency can truly be life-saving. Whether you’re someone with severe allergies or a caregiver for someone who does, understanding EpiPen etiquette and knowing how to respond in an emergency is crucial. Remember, swift action is key. Always carry your EpiPen® with you, know how to use it correctly, and educate those around you about your allergies. By following these steps and being proactive, you can be prepared for whatever comes your way. Stay safe, stay informed, and be prepared. Your actions can make a difference in saving a life during an allergic emergency.

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