Woman wearing a backpack

By Allie Bahn

Epinephrine is the first line of treatment for someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis. Since this emergency medication is essential for those with food allergies, it’s important to know how to store the medication safely.

Whether at home or on the road, epinephrine auto-injectors should be readily available at all times. If you or your child is at risk for anaphylaxis, make sure you carry epinephrine everywhere you go.

Temperature matters

Epinephrine should remain at regular room temperature (68 to 77 degrees F). It should not be exposed to extremes – too much heat or cold – for long periods of time.

If an epinephrine auto-injector is left in the car during a hot summer day or a cold winter night, the epinephrine may become degraded and no longer reliable. New auto-injectors should be obtained as soon as possible.

Remember that epinephrine should never be kept in a refrigerator or freezer or stored with ice packs.

Keep them together

Epinephrine auto-injectors come in packages of two for a reason. It’s estimated 15-30 percent of anaphylaxis episodes will require more than one auto-injector to stop symptoms. This is why they should remain stored together at all times.

If epinephrine needs to be kept at home and school, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possibility of purchasing a separate two-pack for each location.

Look for a carrying case

Store epinephrine auto-injectors in a safe place with easy access. Since temperature is a factor in storage, it may make sense to look into a medical carrying case that has insulation in order to keep the epinephrine at room temperature.

Check expiration dates

Make sure to check the expiration dates and the clear window on your epinephrine auto-injectors. Epinephrine has about a year-long shelf life. Using a calendar or a reminder on your smartphones to keep track of expiration dates can be helpful strategies.

Inspect the epinephrine visually for particles and discoloration prior to administering the medication. Do not use the epinephrine if it is colored or cloudy, or if it contains particles.

If during a severe allergic reaction all you have available is an expired epinephrine auto-injector, go ahead and use it as the device may still contain some medication. While taking expired epinephrine is better than taking no epinephrine at all, doctors maintain it’s very important that patients refill their epinephrine auto-injector prescription when it’s expired.

Reviewed by Purvi Parikh, MD