Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Save a Life

If you already know how to use an epi-pen and when it needs used, you can skip this post....if you don't know and would like to learn, I'd encourage you to read this.  You never know when you might need it!

Epi-pens are used to treat anaphalaxis which is a severe allergic reaction.  Just about anything can cause anaphalaxis, but some of the most common things are food, medication, and insect stings. Some of the symptoms of anaphalaxis are: low blood pressure (dizziness, fainting), swelling of the throat and face, hives (red itchy rash),  nasuea and vomitting, and difficulty breathing.   If someone knows they are prone to anaphalaxis they will hopefully have their epi-pen with them.  If they don't have their epi-pen with them or just plain don't have one, call 911 right away.  This is a big time emergency!
If they have an epi-pen, it is still an emergency.  Anaphalaxis always is.
First, find the epi-pen.  Many people carry their epi-pens in a waist pouch, others put them in their pockets or in a "leg buddy" (special pouch that velcros around your leg and holds up to 2 epi-pens....this is what I use).   The epi-pen will be in a special hard plastic protector case which generally looks like this:
Take off the yellow cap.  The epi-pen should now look like this:

Remove the gray safety cap.  Keep your fingers away from the black tip.  A rather large needle comes out of this end and you really really don't want to stick it into your finger.
Grab the epi-pen in your hand, keeping fingers and thumbs away from both ends.  (it's just safer that way).  Stab, very quickly and firmly, the black tip against the outer thigh of the person who is having an allergic reaction.  It will hurt, but it will save their life. If  it is a small child, they probably won't hold still (they know how much it is going to hurt).  Sit on them.   Hold the pen in place for about 10 seconds.  It will seem like an eternity.  Remove the pen and place it carefully back in the protective case.  The needle will be sticking out, so the pen is now a biohazard.  It should go to the hospital with the person.
Once the pen is safely back in the case, call 911, if it hasn't been called already.  If the person isn't laying down already, they should be.
- Many people can and will give the epi-pen to themselves.  This is okay and in an ideal world, the way it should happen.  Sometimes they will need help.  (I've never been able to get the gray cap off by myself when I'm not breathing).  If they are unconsicous, they need help.
- The epi-pen will go through most clothing, including jeans.  It will not, however, go through snowpants.
- If you have a friend who is prone to anaphalaxis and you have questions about how to use their epi-pen, talk to them about it BEFORE you need to use it.
- If the ambulance is taking forever to get there, and things aren't getting better, you can give a second epi-pen after 10 minutes.  Each pen only contains 1 dose.
-If you want to watch a video about anaphalaxis and epi-pens, click here

No comments: