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- What is EpiPen, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What is the EpiPen used for?
- What are the side effects of EpiPen?
- What is the dosage for EpiPen?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with EpiPen?
- Is EpiPen safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should you know about EpiPen?
What is EpiPen, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- EpiPen is an auto-injectable epinephrine-containing device used for self-administration during life-threatening allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Epinephrine, the medicine contained in EpiPen, is an excitatory chemical naturally made by our bodies. Epinephrine stimulates alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors found throughout the body. When injected during an allergic reaction, epinephrine works in multiple ways to treat the many signs of anaphylaxis. It causes blood vessels to constrict or tighten which helps to increase blood pressure and decrease swelling. Epinephrine also stimulates the heart muscle, causing the heart to beat faster and pump more blood to the vital organs. Epinephrine helps patients breathe better by relaxing the muscles in the lungs and allowing the airways to open up. Additionally, it also helps to prevent further release of inflammatory chemicals that were triggered by the initial allergic reaction.
- The FDA approved EpiPen in December 1987.
What brand names are available for EpiPen?
EpiPen, EpiPen Jr
Is EpiPen available as a generic drug?
Do I need a prescription for EpiPen?
What is the EpiPen used for?
Epinephrine auto injectors are used for emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including
- anaphylactic reactions caused by inset stings or bites,
- allergen immunotherapy,
- chemicals used for diagnostic testing substances such as radiocontrast media, and
- other allergens.
EpiPen also is used for treating anaphylaxis due to exercise or unknown causes.
EpiPen is used for emergency use only and are should not replace proper medical care.
What are the side effects of EpiPen?
Common side effects of EpiPen include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin (pallor)
Possible serious side effects of EpiPen include:
What is the dosage for EpiPen?
- The recommended dose is the contents of 1 autoinjector (0.3 mg or 0.15 mg) injected under the skin or into the muscle of the thigh.
- The dose may be repeated after 5-15 minutes if symptoms persist.
- Patients that weigh 30 kg or more (approximately 66 pounds or more) should receive 0.3 mg (EpiPen) and patients that weigh 15 to 30 kg (33 pounds to 66 pounds) should receive 0.15 mg (EpiPen Jr).
- EpiPen may be injected through clothing if necessary.
Which drugs or supplements interact with EpiPen?
- Administration of epinephrine to patients taking cardiac glycosides, diuretics (water pills), or drugs for treating irregular heartbeats (anti-arrhythmics) can cause the development of irregular heartbeats.
- The effects of epinephrine may be enhanced by medicines such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl), and certain antihistamines.
- The treatment benefits of epinephrine can be reduced by beta-adrenergic blocking medicines such as propranolol (Inderal) and alpha-adrenergic blocking medicines such as phentolamine (Regitine, OraVerse).
- Some anti-migraine medications may also interfere with the benefits of epinephrine treatment.
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Is EpiPen safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Use of epinephrine has not been adequately evaluated in pregnant women. Use of epinephrine in animal studies was associated with birth defects. Epinephrine should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
- It is not known if epinephrine is excreted in breast milk. Since many drugs are excreted in human milk and have the potential of causing harm to the nursing infant, caution should be used when epinephrine is administered to a nursing mother.
What else should you know about EpiPen?
What preparations of EpiPen are available?
Autoinjector: 0.15 mg/0.3 ml, 0.3 mg/0.3 ml
How should I keep EpiPen stored?
- EpiPen should be stored at room temperature, between 15 C and 30 C (59 F and 86 F).
- It shouldn't be refrigerated.
- Epinephrine is light sensitive and should be stored in the carrier tube provided to protect it from light.
EpiPen and EpiPen Jr (epinephrine injection, autoinjector) is a prescription drug used for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions. Side effects of EpiPen include pale skin, sweating, headache, dizziness, anxiety, nausea. Drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety information should be reviewed prior to using this drug.
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Related Disease Conditions
Flea Bites (In Humans)
Flea bites are caused by the parasitic insect, the flea. The most common species of flea in the US is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. Signs and symptoms of flea bites in humans include itching, hives, a rash with bumps, red spots with a "halo," and swelling around the bite. Treatment for flea bites includes over-the-counter medicine and natural and home remedies to relieve and soothe itching and inflammation. The redness of a flea bite can last from a few hours to a several days.
Hives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin that is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. The allergy may be to food or medications, but usually the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown.
Bee and Wasp Sting
Bees, wasps, and fire ants are related insects that belong to the Hymenoptera order. There are thousands of species of wasps found throughout the world. Common wasps are yellow jackets and hornets. Types of bees include honey bees, the Africanized honey bee (killer bee), and the bumble bee. There are four types of reactions to a bee or wasp sting; local reaction, systemic allergic reaction, toxic reaction, and delayed reaction. Individuals who have a systemic or toxic reaction generally require immediate medical treatment to prevent anaphylactic reaction, and possibly death.
Medical shock is a life-threatening medical condition. There are several types of medical shock, including: septic shock, anaphylactic shock, cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock, and neurogenic shock. Causes of shock include: heart attack, heart failure, heavy bleeding (internal and external), infection, anaphylaxis, spinal cord injury, severe burns, chronic vomiting or diarrhea. Low blood pressure is the key sign of sock. Treatment is dependant upon the type of shock.
Bedbugs (from the insect family Cimicidae) are small, reddish-brown tick-like insects that feed by sucking the blood of mammals. They are often found in poorly sanitized areas or in crowded living quarters.
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Spider Bites (Black Widow and Brown Recluse)
Most spiders in the United States are harmless; however, black widow and brown recluse spider bites may need medical treatment. Symptoms of a harmless spider bite generally include pain, redness, and irritation. Signs and symptoms of black widow spider bite include pain immediately, redness, burning, and swelling at the site of the bite. Sometimes the person will feel a pinprick or double fang marks. Brown recluse spider bite symptoms and signs are a mild sting, followed by severe pain and local redness. These symptoms usually develop within eight hours or more after the bite. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites have similar symptoms, for example, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and abdominal or joint pain. Generally, brown recluse and black widow spider bites need immediate medical treatment. If you think that you or someone you know has been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for medical treatment.
Eye allergy (or allergic eye disease) are typically associated with hay fever and atopic dermatitis. Medications and cosmetics may cause eye allergies. Allergic eye conditions include allergic conjunctivitis, conjunctivitis with atopic dermatitis, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, and giant papillary conjunctivitis. Dry eye, tear-duct obstruction, and conjunctivitis due to infection are frequently confused with eye allergies. Eye allergies may be treated with topical antihistamines, decongestants, topical mast-cell stabilizers, topical anti-inflammatory drugs, systemic medications, and allergy shots.
Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that affects a number of different areas of the body at one time, and can be fatal. Causes of anaphylaxis can be food allergy, latex allergy, allergy to insect or but stings/bites, asthma, or other materials or conditions. Symptoms include flushing, itching, hives, anxiety, rapid or irregular pulse. Severe symptoms may be throat and tongue swelling, swallowing, and difficulty breathing. Some disorders appear similar to anaphylaxis such as fainting, panic attacks, blood clots in the lungs, heart attacks, and septic shock. If you think that you may be having an anaphylactic reaction, seek emergency care or call 911 immediately.
The most common food allergies are to eggs, nuts, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes. Symptoms and signs of a food allergy reaction include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itching, hives, eczema, asthma, lightheadedness, and anaphylaxis. Allergy skin tests, RAST, and ELISA tests may be used to diagnose a food allergy. Though dietary avoidance may be sufficient treatment for mild allergies, the use of an Epipen may be necessary for severe food allergies.
The lungs are primarily responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood. Eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood is important, because as it builds up in the blood, headaches, drowsiness, coma, and eventually death may occur. The air we breathe in (inhalation) is warmed, humidified, and cleaned by the nose and the lungs.
Insect Sting Allergies
The majority of stinging insects in the United States are from bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, and fire ants. Severity of reactions to stings varies greatly. Avoidance and prompt treatment are essential. In selected cases, allergy injection therapy is highly effective.
Peanut allergies causes signs and symptoms that include hives, itching, redness, and a rash. Severe reactions may cause decreased blood pressure, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, nausea, and behavioral changes. Someone with a peanut allergy should have an EpiPen with them at all times.
Are Bedbugs Contagious?
Bedbugs are brown wingless insects that feed on human blood. The are typically found around a person's sleeping area. Bedbugs feed a nighttime. A series of bedbug bites may appear like a rash. Eradicating a bedbug infestation will usually require the services of an exterminator.
Bug Bites and Stings
Bug bites and stings have been known to transmit insect-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. Though most reactions to insect bites and stings are mild, some reactions may be life-threatening. Preventing bug bites and stings with insect repellant, wearing the proper protective attire, and not wearing heavily scented perfumes when in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas is key.
Are Hives (Urticaria) Contagious?
Hives are not contagious are triggered by an allergic response to a substance. Symptoms and signs of hives include a raised, itchy red rash on the skin. An individual should seek medical care for hives if he or she develops dysphagia, wheezing, shortness of breath, or throat tightening.
Zika Virus (Zika Fever)
The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Symptoms and signs of a Zika virus infection include conjunctivitis, headache, joint pain, fever, rash, and muscle aches. Treatment for Zika virus infections aims to alleviate symptoms.
Travelers should prepare for their trip by visiting their physician to get the proper vaccinations and obtain the necessary medication if they have a medical condition or chronic disease. Diseases that travelers may pick up from contaminated water or food, insect or animal bites, or from other people include: malaria, meningococcal meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, polio, and cholera.
Drug Allergy (Medication Allergy)
Drug or medication allergies are caused when the immune system mistakenly creates an immune response to a medication. Symptoms of a drug allergic reaction include hives, rash, itchy skin or eyes, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, fainting, and anxiety. The most common drugs that people are allergic to include penicillins and penicillin type drugs, sulfa drugs, insulin, and iodine. Treatment may involve antihistamines or corticosteroids. An EpiPen may be used for life-threatening anaphylactic symptoms.
First Aid and CPR
First aid is providing medical assistance to someone a sick or injured person. The type of first aid depends on their condition. Preparedness is key to first aid, like having basic medical emergency kits in your home, car, boat, or RV. Many minor injuries may require first aid, including cuts, puncture wounds, sprains, strains, and nosebleeds. Examples of more critical first aid emergencies include heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and heatstroke.
Latex allergy is a condition where the body reacts to latex, a natural product derived from the rubber tree. The reaction can either be delayed and cause a skin rash or immediate, which can lead to anaphylaxis. Avoiding latex is the most effective way to prevent an allergic reaction.
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