STUDY: Life Saving Epinephrine Isn’t Administered Often Enough

Less than fifty percent of children who experience anaphylaxis receive epinephrine before treatment in an Emergency Department, despite the medication being the first line of defence against the condition.

According to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, when youths experience serious allergy attacks, known as anaphylaxis – parents, teachers, caregivers, emergency responders and others often don’t administer epinephrine.

The research found that only 36 percent of patients experiencing anaphylaxis received epinephrine before arriving at the emergency department. There is a need for more education, showing caregivers “how to use the auto injectors and walking them through what signs to look for,” said Melissa Robinson, an allergist and lead author of the study.

Approximately 65 percent of the patients surveyed had a known history of anaphylaxis and half of this group had been prescribed epinephrine in the past. However, among the patients who had been prescribed epinephrine, only 70 percent had the medication with them at the time of the allergy attack.

Robinson and her team also noted that there was a major difference between the patients who arrived at the emergency room after being given epinephrine and those who hadn’t. Children whose caregivers had administered an EpiPen were 60 percent more likely to be discharged from the hospital rather than admitted.

Robinson speculates that a major part of the problem is that parents and caregivers often don’t recognize recognise symptoms of anaphylaxis quickly enough (or at all). Some of the most common symptoms include hives, trouble breathing, and vomiting, all which occur within two hours of being exposed to an allergen. She suggests administering epinephrine when two body symptoms react to the allergen (for example, hives and vomiting indicate that both the stomach and skin have been affected).

“If you’re not sure to the point where you’re thinking about it, I tell parents it’s better to give it than to wait,” Robinson said.

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