EpiPen is undoubtedly the best-known immediate-response injectable medication designed for treatment of anaphylactic reactions caused by severe allergic reactions. Supplied in an applicator device similar to pen in its shape, EpiPen contains a needle that is jabbed into the thigh to release adrenaline (epinephrine) into the organism.

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This hormone will in turn to stop the sudden blood pressure drop and extreme narrowing of the airways that make anaphylaxis as dangerous as it is. Developed and marketed by Meda pharmaceutical company, EpiPen is certainly the most popular immediate-response treatment on the market that anticipated and lent its name to a whole class of similar adrenaline-based medicines.

A short introduction to allergies

An allergic reaction will occur in an individual once the immune system mistakenly perceives a harmless compound as a threat similar to an infection and tries to combat it. Usually called allergens or simply triggers, these substances can be very varied, as people can develop allergies to many different compounds such as pollen, pet dander, insect venom, certain types of food and medicine, to mention just a few.

Once the allergen is encountered, the body will respond to the perceived threat by releasing a number of chemicals, most notably histamine. These chemicals will in turn cause the characteristic symptoms of allergy, including inflammation and the sudden dilation of the blood vessels which will in turn cause the blood pressure to dramatically drop. As a consequence, the person affected will feel dizzy, sometimes even fainting, while at the same time, the tissue will begin to swell. This response is called anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis.

If the swelling affects the airways, then the condition might become life-threatening and will require immediate treatment – this is where EpiPen comes into play.

How does EpiPen treat anaphylactic shock?

The secret to EpiPen’s immense success is its active ingredient, the hormone adrenaline, also known as epinephrine (hence the name). When introduced into the organism, adrenaline can quickly and efficiently manage blood pressure, stopping further dilation of the blood vessels, bringing the pressure back to normal levels. At the same time, it is very adept at reducing the swelling of the tissue, including in the throat and airways, thus contributing to the widening of the vital airways, facilitating easier breathing.

Who can use EpiPen?

EpiPen certainly is intrusive treatment, but it has to be such in order to produce the desired results in the event of life-threatening anaphylactic shock. As such, it is sure to cause some discomfort in the user, but at the same time potentially saving one’s life. However, despite potentially unpleasant side effects, EpiPen is not a dangerous medication and it can be used by children and adult alike.

However, it is of crucial importance to note that in addition to standard EpiPen used in adults, Meda has also developed a reduced dose version for children called EpiPen Jr. This version can be safely used for the treatment of anaphylaxis in children weighing as little as 15kg. Aside from the decreased dose, EpiPen Jr is virtually identical to the standard version in terms of administration method and mechanism of action.

Can I buy EpiPen online?

EpiPen standard version can be purchased online with a valid prescription issued by a certified medical professional, but the decreased dose children’s version will have to be bought via the traditional route – visiting a pharmacy in person following consultations with a doctor. If you are an adult who just needs to renew their prescription, you can do so through various online clinics operating within the UK. This can be as simple as contacting the doctor employed by the clinic through a chat app of a customised questionnaire which will be used to assess your suitability for this treatment.

If the doctor approves the treatment, the prescription will be issued by the doctor and used that same moment to order the medicine and send it to the address you provided, with variations depending on the business model of the online clinic of your choice.

Expiry date for EpiPens

It is important to note that you will have to replace your EpiPen once it goes past its expiry date. Luckily, many online clinics today offer their customers a service of notifying patients timely that their EpiPen is about to expire and that it should be replaced.

How is EpiPen used?

Prior to using EpiPen in real-life situations, you should be instructed on how to use this medicine by a doctor or a nurse. If you haven’t received the appropriate training, you should make an appointment with your doctor and request it as soon as possible. It is also recommended to get familiar with the instructions provided in the official patient information leaflet in order to ensure you know how to use this treatment properly and that you will be able to do so in an event of anaphylaxis.

Please keep in mind that the text bellow is not intended to be as a substitute for a training by a medical professional or an official guide, instead it is intended to be used as a kind of illustration that will help you get a better idea of how EpiPen should be used.

  • The standard dose for adults is 0.3mg
  • After coming into contact with an allergen, do what you can to remove it from the body as soon as possible prior to administering EpiPen (removing an insect’s sting for example)
  • Apply EpiPen as soon as you notice signs of an allergic reaction
  • If necessary, EpiPen can be applied through clothing
  • Ideally, administer EpiPen to the outside of the thigh
  • Struck the thigh firmly from a distance of 10cm at 90 degrees angle
  • Be sure to inject the medicine into the muscle and not the vein – otherwise, serious health complications may follow
  • Plunger inside the device will automatically release the adrenaline
  • Hold the injector in place for at least 10 seconds before removing it
  • You can see that the dose has been administered by looking at the window on the device that should be covered following the successful administration
  • Massage your leg for a short duration after removing the needle
  • Call the emergency services immediately following administration
  • If the symptoms remain after 10 to 15 minutes, administer a second dose in the same manner

What are EpiPen side effects?

As was mentioned, an injection of adrenaline is a rather intrusive method of treatment, but is nevertheless effective and can even be the difference between surviving an anaphylactic shock and succumbing to it. Still, that also means that some side effects are to be expected in the hours following administration:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Weakness
  • Tremor
  • Anxiety

Is EpiPen safe for me?

Certain medicines you might be taking can adversely interact with EpiPen or even make it less effective, so you should be aware of this and consult with your doctor regarding the ways to counteract this issue. Drugs you should be aware of include:

  • Diabetes medicines
  • Antidepressants
  • All medicines known to increase sensitivity to arrhythmias

In addition to this there are certain medical conditions that might make EpiPen use risky. If you have any of the following, consult with your doctor about the further course of action:

  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes