I hear people ask this all the time: Why do we need to carry around emergency medications (like the EpiPen and AuviQ) for severe allergies to food or insects? Why can’t we just call 911 and rely on EMTs or doctors to give epinephrine if we need it?

Let’s think about this for a minute. Why would doctors prescribe these medications and expect you to carry them around? The answer is because the medicine needs to be given swiftly when a person is experiencing anaphylaxis (severe food allergy reaction involving multiple body systems). Doctors actually want YOU to use the EpiPen at home (where ever you are) because time is of the essence. Don’t wait for someone else.

We carry two EpiPens with us at all times to be prepared for my child’s multiple food allergies. At school, he wears them in a belt around the waist. The reason we keep epinephrine with us or in arms reach of my child is because doctors have taught us that the best chance of surviving a life-threatening food allergy reaction is when the patient receives epi in under 2 minutes from exposure.

How long does it take to wait for an ambulance? More than two minutes. How long does it take to drive to the ER? So many precious minutes. How about to send someone from the school cafeteria to get the nurse and back again? How about getting an EpiPen out to the playground when it’s stored inside the school in a locked cabinet?

I’ve heard countless stories of parents who drive to the ER with an EpiPen in their hands because they were too scared to give it, only to have the ER docs force them to do it when they arrived so they can gain more confidence and know how to handle it.

Yes, the idea of giving a shot may seem scary – but trust me – as someone who has both given and received the EpiPen, it only hurts for a brief moment and then people generally feel relief and the symptoms begin to reverse right away! I watched my child go from scared, throat swelling shut and hives all over to “normal” within 1-2 minutes after giving the shot. I still called the ambulance and by the time they arrived he was stable. Most of the tragic stories I’ve read about kids & adults who die from anaphylaxis wait too long (or never receive) a shot of epi. They try to drive to the ER. Or they wait for the ambulance to arrive. Or they didn’t have an EpiPen with them. Or they wait for more serious symptoms to appear before giving it. Or they are scared. Or they think the EMTs or doctors will know what to do (sometimes they don’t!).

THIS is why the medical and pharmaceutical industries trust average people to carry around needles with medicine in them – for IMMEDIATE treatment. I tell everyone I train on how to take care of my child that I will NEVER be mad at you for giving him an EpiPen shot, never. Trust your judgment, and know that I want you to help him by giving the shot.

EpiPens are amazing technology and we are damn lucky to have them. Don’t be afraid to save a life.

Is cost keeping you from carrying EpiPens? The out of pocket costs can really add up. Make sure to check out the $0 copay offer from Mylan to save money.

You can find more of my food allergy posts, tips & recipes on my Food Allergy page. I’d also love to connect with you on my Marketing Mama facebook page and twitter. This post, and all posts on this blog, are written from my experiences as a parent of a child with food allergies. I am not a medical expert and encourage you to consult with a doctor on your personal medical situation.

  Photo credit: Stefano Brivio, creative commons license.

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2 Responses to “Do we really need to carry EpiPens? Can’t we just call 911 or go to the hospital?”

  1. Candace says:

    Thanks! It is back to school epipen filling time. I need four to put in two different places at the school, plus my son’s backpack and my purse.
    Our copay has inflated to over $300, so this coupon will save us a bundle!!



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