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Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

Introduction

If you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past, you know how frightening it can be. Symptoms of breathing problems, itching, and swelling can come on quickly and become life-threatening. Giving yourself an epinephrine shot can slow down or stop an allergic reaction. That's why it is important to have an allergy kit containing an epinephrine shot with you at all times and to know the right way to use it: It could save your life someday.

 

There are some important things to think about before you give the shot:

  • The shot does not replace the need to be seen by a doctor. After giving yourself a shot, seek emergency care. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can return or get worse after an epinephrine shot.
  • An epinephrine shot should only be injected into the side of the thigh. Do not give the shot into a buttock or a vein.
  • Learn the signs that point to a severe allergic reaction. If you feel them coming on, act quickly.

It is also important to:

  • Keep an allergy kit with you at all times. Many people keep one at home and one at work or school.
  • Keep two epinephrine shots in each kit in case a second shot is needed.
  • Always wear a medical alert bracelet to let others know about your allergies.
  • Teach your family, friends, and coworkers how to give you a shot in case you need help.

Test Your Knowledge

After I have given myself the shot, I can just go about my business.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    Giving yourself a shot does not replace the need to be seen by a doctor. After giving the shot, seek emergency medical care. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can return or get worse after an epinephrine shot.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    Giving yourself a shot does not replace the need to be seen by a doctor. After giving the shot, seek emergency medical care. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can return or get worse after an epinephrine shot.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

An epinephrine shot can slow down or stop your allergic reaction. Epinephrine relieves wheezing, breathing problems, and itching from hives. It helps keep blood pressure within a normal range and also reduces swelling that can occur in your hands, feet, eyelids, tongue, and throat.

If you have had a serious allergic reaction in the past, your risk of having another is high. But people react differently when they are exposed to the allergen that causes their allergic reaction. It is important to get clear instructions from your doctor on when you should give yourself an epinephrine shot.

An epinephrine shot comes as an automatic injector that is prefilled with one shot of epinephrine. It is made to be quick and simple to use.

Take care of your epinephrine shot:

  • To protect it from light, keep the epinephrine shot in the tube provided until you are ready to use it.
  • Store epinephrine shot at room temperature—59°F (16°C) to 86°F (30°C). Do not refrigerate.
  • Check the expiration dates of the medicines in the allergy kit, and replace the medicines as needed.
  • Check the medicine in the epinephrine shot. It should be clear. If the solution is pinkish brown or has solid particles in it, the epinephrine shot should be replaced.

Test Your Knowledge

I should keep my allergy kit in my car so it is always handy.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    To work properly, epinephrine needs to be kept at room temperature. A car can get too hot. A better idea would be to keep one kit in your purse, briefcase, or backpack; one at home; and one at work or school.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    To work properly, epinephrine needs to be kept at room temperature. A car can get too hot. A better idea would be to keep one kit in your purse, briefcase, or backpack; one at home; and one at work or school.

  •  

Continue to How?

 
  1. Your epinephrine injector may have a black or orange tip. Grasp the epinephrine shot injector in one fist with the black (or orange) tip pointing down. Do not touch the tip.
  2. With the other hand, pull off the gray (or blue) cap.
  3. Hold the black or orange tip close to your outer thigh. Swing and jab the tip firmly into your outer thigh. Jab through clothing if you must, but bare skin is best. The injector should go straight into your skin, at a 90-degree angle to your thigh.
  4. Keep the injector in your outer thigh for 10 seconds. Note: It is normal for most of the liquid to be left in the injector. Do not try to inject the remaining liquid.
  5. Remove the injector, and place your hand on the area where the medicine entered your skin. Rub the area for about 10 seconds. Take the antihistamine tablet in your allergy kit.
  6. Put the used injector, needle-end first, into the storage tube that comes with your injector. Do not bend the needle. Screw on the cap of the storage tube. Go to the emergency room, and bring the used injector with you.

View a slideshow to see how to do it:

How to Give Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

You should feel the effects of the medicine almost right away. These may include a rapid heartbeat and nervousness as well as improved breathing. The benefits of the shot usually last 10 to 20 minutes.

In some severe cases, you may need to give a second shot. Your doctor will explain when a second shot is needed. Make sure you understand, and ask questions if you are not sure. Too much epinephrine can cause serious side effects, such as trouble breathing.

Test Your Knowledge

I don't like the idea of giving myself a shot. If I have an allergic reaction, I can just go to the hospital.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    You have been prescribed an allergy kit because you are at risk for a dangerous allergic reaction. Symptoms can come on within seconds and quickly become life-threatening. If you have a reaction, you cannot wait until you get to a hospital to be treated. You must give yourself the shot right away. Luckily, giving the shot is easy.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    You have been prescribed an allergy kit because you are at risk for a dangerous allergic reaction. Symptoms can come on within seconds and quickly become life-threatening. If you have a reaction, you cannot wait until you get to a hospital to be treated. You must give yourself the shot right away. Luckily, giving the shot is easy.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

If you have any questions about giving an epinephrine shot or about when to give a second shot, discuss them with your doctor. It is important to know how to administer an epinephrine shot before you need it.

For more information about allergic reactions, see the topics:

Return to topic:

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised February 25, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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