Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh

A national survey from Food Allergy Canada shows that most Canadians at risk of a severe or even fatal allergic reaction do not carry their life-saving medication with them. In addition, only 45% of Canadians would know how to treat someone having a severe allergic reaction.

Would you know what to do?

Allergy symptoms can affect a person's airways, nasal passages, skin, and digestive system. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. In some cases, allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

In Canada, the most common epinephrine injection device is an EpiPen®. According to EpiPen.ca, an EpiPen is a “disposable, pre-filled automatic injection device that administers epinephrine in the event of a severe allergic reaction.”

“The EpiPen is used to treat severe allergic reactions to insect stings or bites, foods, drugs, and other allergens. During a severe allergic reaction, blood pressure can become very low, breathing can become difficult, and the face and throat can swell,” says Norman Tang, Manager of the Outpatient Pharmacy at North York General Hospital.
Norman Tang, Manager, Outpatient Pharmacy, North York General Hospital
Norman Tang, Manager, Outpatient Pharmacy

How do you use an EpiPen?
  • Hold firmly with orange tip pointing downward.
  • Remove blue safety cap by pulling straight up.
  • With a quick motion, push orange tip firmly into mid-outer thigh (only inject it into the outer portion of the thigh)until you hear a “click” and hold on thigh for a few seconds.
  • Remove the auto-injector from the thigh and take it with you to the emergency room so that anyone who treats you or the person you administered it to will know how much epinephrine was received.
The EpiPen is used to treat severe allergic reactions to insect stings or bites, foods, drugs, and other allergens.“Even after epinephrine has been administered, immediate emergency treatment is necessary. Call 911 or be taken to an emergency room as you will need expert care to determine whether additional epinephrine, steroids, antihistamines or other treatments are required,” says Norman.

A second reaction can occur up to 38 hours after the first, so you will need to remain under medical supervision for at least four hours Norman says.

Do EpiPens expire?

"Each new EpiPenshould have a minimum of 12 months before expiry, and you should always check the expiry date as it's not recommended to use past this date," says Norman.
September 7, 2017
To learn more:
Watch the video How to Use EpiPen on Someone Else from the EpiPen Canada YouTube channel.

This article first appeared in the September 2017 of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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