Get the Facts

Every second matters when you have a serious allergy reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening occurrence that effects the entire body and can cause a host of symptoms, including difficulty breathing, hives, chest pain, and swelling or your lips, tongue and throat and sometimes unconsciousness. It can even be fatal in some cases if you don't get help in time. When this occurs, using an epinephrine pen, which is an injectible form of medication, can be an important way to relieve the symptoms and buy you enough time to get to an emergency room for further treatment.

Ready, Set, Go

When an emergency occurs, you will need to know how to use your EpiPen® properly in order to counteract a serious reaction or anaphylaxis situation.

Here are five important facts that can help you to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

  • Check the date on your EpiPen® to make sure that the medication isn't expired. The shelf life on this device is generally one year. But keep in mind that the item could already have been at the pharmacy for a while before you bought it, so you should always check the expiration date. You can usually find it on the medication box flap and also on the device itself near the tip. When the medication is outdated, it may not be as effective if you have an anaphylaxis episode.
  • Use your EpiPen® only one time. This is an important point, evenif you can still see that there is medication left inside the case. This is because after you use the epinephrine pen, there may not be enough in there to effectively head off your bad reaction, so you could give yourself an injection and find out the hard way that there isn't enough to resolve your problem. In addition, if the tip of the epinephrine pen looks compromised in any way, you should always err on the side of cauti on and have it replaced so you don't take chances and find it doesn't work when you need it.
  • Follow theEpiPen® directions carefully. The proper technique is to inject your EpiPen® in the fatty section of the outer part of your thigh area. This can be done right through your clothing. You should not inject the epinephrine pen into a vein or muscle, as this could prevent the medication from working properly. After you inject the pen, you should leave it in place for about 10 seconds to be sure all of the medication has been transferred. (There will likely still be a little medication remaining in the pen unit, though, which is normal.)
  • After using your EpiPen®, you will still need to seek emergency medical treatment. When you experience anaphylaxis, the effects of the EpiPen® can help reverse some of the symptoms to buy you enough time to receive proper medical care. It is important to understand, though, that the epinephrine only lasts in your system for about 20 minutes or less. Therefore, if you are having a serious problem, your life could still be in danger if you don't receive further treatment. Sometimes you may need an additional dose of epinephrine but this should always be administered by a trained health care provider who can monitor the amount you receive carefully.
  • While using your EpiPen® can be a lifesaving way to relieve anaphylaxis, the medication can occasionally cause side effects as well. This includes anxiety, chest pain, heart palpations, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. In rare cases, you could also experience more serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing, dangerously elevated blood pressure and even seizures. People with certain health conditions could be more at risk for such difficulties and may need to adjust the dose of medication used or try a test dose to see how the body responds. If you have any concerns, is important to talk with your doctor and develop the safest and most effective plan for your specific circumstances.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's information on anaphylaxis at