Epi-pens and other epinephrine auto-injector devices are designed to be easy to use in the case of an anaphylactic reaction, but 4 out of 5 people who have one don’t use it correctly! As I’m writing this, it’s Christmas eve and the chances of someone accidentally encountering an allergen and having a reaction are high, so let’s brush up on using Epi-Pens and talk about recent research that says people are messing up.
How to use an Epi-Pen
- Remove the auto-injector from the clear carrier tube or any other packaging
- Grasp the auto-injector in your fist with the orange tip pointing down. With your other hand, remove the blue safety release by pulling straight up without bending or twisting it.
- Hold the auto-injector with orange tip near the outer thigh.
- Press firmly against the thigh for approximately 10 seconds to deliver the drug. The injection is now complete.
- Remove the auto-injector from the thigh. The orange tip will extend to cover the needle.
- Massage the injection area for 10 seconds.
- Get emergency medical help right away.
Get the full information sheet from the manufacturer right here.
All of these steps are covered in the majority of our training courses, along with a demonstration and the chance to see & handle training devices… and it seems easy enough, so what could go wrong?
Based on recent research in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology…. 102 patients who use an Epi-pen were studied. 16% of them used the epi-pen correctly! Yes that’s right, 84% (more than 4 in every 5) of people with an Epi-Pen are using it incorrectly. So how can you misuse an Epi-pen if they’re meant to be so easy?
Fully three-quarters of people do not hold the injector against their thigh for long enough. Although medication delivery is rapid, the 10 second requirement is put there by the manufacturer and presumably for a good reason.
Next, well over half of people are not holding the device in the palm of their hand. It may seem minor, but if a user accidentally injects their thumb or fingers the medication won’t work to save their life… and it reduces circulation in the thumb/finger, putting them at risk of gangrene if they survive long enough.
Other common errors included failure to place the needle end of the device on the thigh and failure to depress the device forcefully enough to activate the injection. The least common error was failing to remove the cap before attempting to use the injector.
Most patients made multiple mistakes and more than half (56%) missed 3 or more steps and would not have benefited from self-administration of the potentially life-saving
treatment if the need arose.
A full list and tables showing how many people make which mistakes can be accessed via ScienceDirect.
Training with Epi-Pens
If you aren’t sure how to use an Epi-pen and you need to know, find out now! Don’t leave it until the day you need it. Join one of our courses, take a course with someone else, view the videos on the manufacturer’s website. Whatever it takes – don’t just assume they’re easy to use, apparently that’s not true.