My first experience of using an EpiPen was chaotic yet humorous. The first time I used an EpiPen was October of 2021. In fact, I didn’t physically inject myself my husband did.
I had a reaction to Betamethasone cream after applying it to my irritated skin from the adhesive of a Holter monitor. My first set of symptoms were after the Lightheadedness, dizziness, and an insatiable itch all over my body. I believe I took Benadryl liquid. However, after the itchness subsided, I began to have abdominal pain and severe back spasms that brought me to my knees. I called my husband into the room and he gave me a back massage. The episode lasted approximately 20 minutes and then poof, all my symptoms disappeared, like it never happened. I thought to myself, well the Benadryl took care of that.
On the other hand, for a reason I can’t explain, I became very upset. I called a friend to vent. I couldn’t believe what just happened to me, it was scary. The floodgates of emotions broke open and I was hysterically crying. As my friend tried to calm me down,I noticed I was fading. I felt like a fan that was slowly winding down after it had been unplugged. I barely uttered to my friend, I think I am going to pass out. And I was out , not completely but close enough. My husband rushed outside, I remembered him picking my upper body up and dragging me inside. This did not play put as I had always imagine. After 10 years of marriage a couple of cakes here & there, the kids and sedentary jobs my “Gone With Wind” damsel in distress expectations had to be adjusted. Then again hypoxia is not a sexy look so I’ll take it.
I had an EpiPen in the home due other strange reactions I had in the past. My husband rushed around to find the EpiPen. Then the question was, how do you work this thing? I was trying to help him while I could barely hold my head up. He got it open, and accidentally injected it into his finger. Well, now that we know what not to do, he grabbed the second pen and injected it into my thigh. We called 911, and now EMS had 2 patients to care for. Lesson learned.
Now over 30 EpiPens later, might I say we are a pro now. Yes, thanks I will take my trophy now. On a more serious note, here are tips for what to for first time EpiPen users.
- Educate- check the manufacturer’s website for instructions on how to use the EpiPen. Most EpiPens have similar designs. Each prescription of EpiPen comes with 2 injectable pen & a test pen. Use the test pen to learn how to self inject & teach others how to inject the pen in case you are unconscious. Some manufacturers have a video demonstration of how to use an EpiPen. I suggest you do not store the tester with the real pen so that you do not accidentally you a pen with no Epinephrine during an emergency. *You may not always get the same brand of EpiPen when you fill your prescription. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a great article on identifying symptoms of anaphylaxis. They also have a Virtual Allergist (Not to be used to check symptoms of anaphylaxis).
- Prepare- If you have frequent anaphylaxis as in the case of MCAS, I recommend you have an action plan. The Mast Cell Disease Society has a free action plan template that can be tailored to your needs by your allergist/ immunologist. The plan also has recommendations on how to prepare for minor or major procedures. Know where your EpiPen is at all time. Have a designated spot for. Many people’s condition is not as severe as mine, but I do have a bag with me at all times, just for home use. My emergency medications are within reach at all times. Remember to refill your EpiPen after use even if you have 1 left.
- Inspect- Examine your pen for defects or evidence of tampering. Make a note of the expiration date. An expired EpiPen may not fully cover you during anaphylaxis.
It is not unusual to have uncommon symptoms of anaphylaxis. I personally get uterine cramps or back spasms with anaphylaxis. I do not break out in hives. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology “If you are uncertain whether or not a reaction warrants epinephrine, use it right away, because the benefits of epinephrine far outweigh the risk that a dose may not have been necessary“. The keyis know yourself, start a journal of what your triggers are and your reactions. Inform your specialist of any new symptoms during a reaction.
Do you have a story about the first time you used an EpiPen for yourself or someone else? We’d love to hear it. Please comment below.