EpiKelsey never leaves home without it – her auto-injectable epinephrine, that is. In fact she always has two. You see, Kelsey is allergic to peanuts and while she does everything she can to avoid being exposed to them, she knows that accidents happen,especially now that she’s an active teenager. And she knows that if an accidental exposure does occur, she could develop the life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Some common allergies that are prone to anaphylaxis include peanut, tree nut, shellfish, and insect sting. Not everyone who is allergic to one or more of these will develop anaphylaxis – but it’s happened to Kelsey before, so she’s always watchful.

Every person – and every episode – is different, however. It’s important to understand that an anaphylactic reaction can progress quickly and turn deadly with little warning. That’s why doctors recommend that at-risk patients carry auto-injectable epinephrine with them at all times and use it at the first sign of symptoms.

Symptoms include:

• Hives (red, itchy bumps on your skin)
• Lip, tongue and throat swelling
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping
• Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing
• Drop in blood pressure
• Loss of consciousness

Thanks to The Network’s BREATHE: It’s the Law campaign (sponsored by Mylan Specialty) and tireless efforts from volunteers across the country, laws have been passed in all 50 states guaranteeing students like Kelsey the right to keep their autoinjectable epinephrine close at hand at school and school-sponsored events. 

Epinephrine Tips

• Epinephrine is very efficient at stopping anaphylaxis when it is used right away; most anaphylaxis-related fatalities occur when treatment is delayed.

• As many as 25 percent of people who have an anaphylactic reaction will have a second wave of symptoms, so keep two doses of epinephrine with you at all times and get to a hospital as quickly as possible after using your first dose.

• Store your auto-injectors as close to room temperature as possible, since extremely hot or cold temperatures may make the epinephrine ineffective or cause the injector to malfunction. If you’re outside on a cold day, keep it close to your body to keep it warm.

• Auto-injectable epinephrine is one of those medicines you hope you never have to use. But as such, it’s easy to forget about it and let it get out of date. Check yours today and renew it if necessary.

• At the pharmacy, make sure the device you’re given is the one your physician prescribed and that you know how to use it.

Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACEs)

ACE21Allergy & Asthma Network has teamed up allergists and community volunteers in 150 communities across the U.S. to raise awareness about anaphylaxis. Click here to read more about the Anaphylaxis Community Experts program. ACEs was created by The Netowrk in partnership with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), sponsored by Mylan Specialty.

First published: The MA Report, November 2010