A Lifesaver You May Have Never Known You Needed

A Lifesaver You May Have Never Known You Needed

(We now offer an optional EpiPen in our Emergency First Aid Kit plus. This could possibly save your life in the event of a severe allergic reaction from exposure to known or unknown allergens).

What is an EpiPen and why might you need one

An EpiPen is a brand of epinephrine auto-injector that is commonly used to treat anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic response). An EpiPen is designed for self-administration or administration by a bystander and can be lifesaving in an anaphylactic emergency. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, works by reversing the symptoms of anaphylaxis in several ways:

  • Constricting blood vessels: This increases blood pressure that may have dropped dangerously during the reaction.
  • Relaxing the muscles in the airways: This helps to improve breathing.
  • Reducing the swelling of the face and throat: This helps to prevent suffocation.
  • Stimulating the heartbeat: This helps to counteract the effects of shock.

Side effects of EpiPen use include:

  • Increased heart rate - The epinephrine in EpiPens can cause your heart to beat faster.
  • Palpitations - You might feel your heart pounding or fluttering.
  • Sweating - Increased sweating is another common reaction.
  • Nervousness or anxiety - The surge of adrenaline can cause feelings of nervousness.
  • Headaches - Some people experience headaches following the use of epinephrine.
  • Dizziness - This can occur due to changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Nausea and vomiting - These are less common but can occur after injection.
  • Respiratory difficulty - Although epinephrine helps open airways, in some cases, it might cause difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain

Drug interactions and cautions.

EpiPen ingredients can interact with many drugs (217 listed on Drugs.com, some minor and some major reactions) and supplements. For a complete list check out Drugs.com site. In addition, consult your primary care provider on the safe use of this medication.

Use with caution if you have the following:

  • Allergies to epinephrine or excipients in EpiPen: If you are allergic to any component of the EpiPen do not use it.
  • Cardiovascular conditions: If you have heart disease you may experience serious cardiac complications from the use of epinephrine, which can increase heart rate and force of heart contractions.
  • Severe asthma: Use caution as epinephrine can exacerbate your condition.
  • Hyperthyroidism: As epinephrine stimulates the release of thyroid hormones, hyperthyroidism could worsen symptoms.
  • Certain types of glaucoma: You may find that epinephrine worsens your condition due to increased intraocular pressure. (1)

What is anaphylaxis, and how to prevent it

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur rapidly after exposure to an allergen. This reaction can affect multiple body systems, including the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and cardiovascular system.

 It is believed that up to 15 percent of the U.S. population may experience anaphylaxis, with an estimated 500-1,000 deaths annually. (2)

Common symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Difficulty breathing and wheezing
  • Swelling of the throat,
  • Widespread hives,
  • Vomiting,
  • Confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Weak pulse
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure which can lead to fainting and shock

Some common triggers that can cause anaphylaxis are:

  • Food Allergens: Nuts (peanuts, tree nuts), shellfish, milk, eggs, and wheat are among the most common food triggers.
  • Medications: Certain antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and medications used in anesthesia can trigger anaphylaxis.
  • Insect Stings: Bee stings, wasp stings, and other insect venoms.
  • Latex: Found in some medical and personal protective equipment.
  • Other Allergens: Less commonly, anaphylaxis can be triggered by physical exercise or exposure to natural rubber latex, among others. (3)

Prevention of Anaphylaxis

Preventing anaphylaxis involves avoiding known allergens.

This may sound easy, but anaphylaxis can happen to anyone, at any time.

 One instance of anaphylaxis that comes to memory was when I was working at a walk-in clinic. A lady came into our clinic, her face red, puffy, and swollen, and gasping for air.

Once she was stabilized, we investigated what could have caused the reaction. She stated she had been eating dried apricots in the car when an anaphylactic reaction came on quite suddenly within a few minutes. Upon further inspection of the apricots, she discovered the apricots contained an additive used to preserve the apricots that she had a known allergy to. She hadn’t thought to read the label before consuming them (a very common and easy-to-make mistake). If she hadn’t been so close to the clinic, she may not have survived. Time is of the essence when dealing with anaphylactic shock.

 It is getting more common to find foods you have purchased being recalled due to undeclared allergens. The FDA has an undeclared allergen webpage where you can sign up and receive notices via email You can access this site here.

You can curb anaphylactic reactions by:

  Identifying and avoiding allergens: The first step is to identify triggers through allergy testing, personal experience, and history-taking. Once you know what your allergies are, avoid these allergens.

  • Read Labels: Always read food labels and inquire about ingredients in prepared foods. Know the different names for ingredients on package labels. This can be tricky since one ingredient can carry several different names.
  • Carry Medication: If you have known allergies, you should always carry an EpiPen with you.
  • Inform Others: It’s important to inform family, friends, and caregivers about your allergies and what to do in case of an emergency (Instruct on the use of EpiPen).
  • Wear Medical Alert Jewelry: This can inform others of your allergies in an emergency when you might not be able to communicate.
  • When eating out: Always inform restaurant staff about your allergies and be cautious with cross-contamination.
  • Plan Ahead: When traveling, carry your EpiPen, and have all who are traveling with you trained on how to use it.


  1. (n.d.). Epipen - Uses, Side Effects, Interactions. Retrieved from https://www.medbroadcast.com
  2. Anaphylaxis: Clinical Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management - Journal of Urgent Care Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.jucm.com.
  3. Neugut AI, Ghatak AT, Miller RL. Anaphylaxis in the United States: An Investigation Into Its Epidemiology. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(1):15–21. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.1.15

 Written by Brooke Lounsbury

About our editorial team

The TWC Editorial team is comprised of various wellness practitioners from physiotherapists, acupuncturists, fitness instructors, herbalists, and MDs.

This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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