How to Use an EpiPen

Administer Epinephrine to Stop Anaphylaxis

With food allergies so common in children today, many doctors recommend parents carry automatic epinephrine injectors that can be used if their child has an anaphylactic reaction. Similarly, allergists recommend that adults with severe allergies also carry epinephrine injectors at all times.

What Is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergy that can affect as much as 15% of the population. If the victim is unconscious, call 911 immediately. Look for several telltale signs that indicate an allergic reaction:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Hives (raised welts)
  • Scratchy throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

It is not necessary to have all of the signs for it to be an allergy. If you suspect an allergic reaction and the victim has trouble breathing or dizziness, it is probably anaphylaxis: Call 911 immediately and administer an epinephrine injector.

What Is Epinephrine?

Epinephrine can stop anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated quickly and properly, and epinephrine is the first line of defense. Patients with anaphylaxis carry automatic injectors of epinephrine—the most common brand is an EpiPen—in case of an anaphylactic reaction.

Depending on laws in your state and the level of training a first aid provider has, it may be permissible for a first aid provider to administer an EpiPen to a victim of anaphylaxis. The EpiPen must already be prescribed to the patient in order for it to be used.

A fairly new automatic injector of epinephrine is on the market by Auvi‑Q. This brand of epinephrine injector gives the instructions on use via audio; hence it has become known as the talking epinephrine injector.

How to Use the EpiPen


Remove the EpiPen

Taking out an EpiPen
Melanie Martinez

Unscrew the yellow cap from the container and slide out the EpiPen.


Remove the Gray Safety Cap

Remove the gray safety cap from the back of the EpiPen
Melanie Martinez

Take off the gray safety cap from the back of the EpiPen. It won't work unless this cap is removed.


Inject the Epinephrine

Inject the EpiPen into the thigh - right through clothes
Melanie Martinez

Grasp the EpiPen in a fist and press the black, rounded tip hard into the thigh. Hold the EpiPen in place while slowly counting to 10. The pen can inject right through clothing.


Call 911 and Discard the EpiPen

Throw a used EpiPen away in a sharps container
Melanie Martinez

Once the EpiPen is used, call 911. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition, and using epinephrine is only a temporary fix. It may be necessary to give a second dose of epinephrine.

The EpiPen now must be properly discarded. The ambulance crew will be able to throw the used EpiPen away in their sharps container, or you may need to discard it in its original container.

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Article Sources
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  1. 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

  2. Sicherer SH, Simons FER. Epinephrine for First-aid Management of Anaphylaxis. Pediatrics. 2017;139(3) doi:10.1542/peds.2016-4006