Children who have severe allergies can be at risk for a life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock, which makes it difficult for them to breathe. The good news is, a small and easy-to-carry device called an EpiPen® is a lifesaving tool for many children experiencing anaphylaxis.
For some children who have allergies, board-certified pediatrician Rainilda Valencia, MD, from Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, prescribes an EpiPen and recommends they carry it with them at all times. Discover more about the EpiPen and if your child should get one.
What is an EpiPen?
An EpiPen is a small, slim medical device your child can easily carry anywhere. When used at the first signs of anaphylactic shock as your child waits for further medical attention, it offers immediate, life-saving medication called epinephrine.
Epinephrine is a synthetic version of adrenaline, which your body also naturally produces in some situations. During anaphylactic shock, epinephrine provides a burst of energy that stimulates your child’s heart, increases their blood pressure, relaxes their lungs to make breathing easier, and reduces swelling.
How do you use an EpiPen?
If Dr. Valencia prescribes an EpiPen for your child, you should use it on them at the first signs they might be experiencing anaphylactic shock. These signs include:
- Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness
- Skin turning pale, blue, or developing a rash or hives
- Difficulty swallowing or throat tightening up
- Weak pulse
- Lip or tongue swelling
- Symptoms of shock
- Disorientation or confusion
When these symptoms appear, your first course of action is to administer the EpiPen your child is carrying. Start by taking it out of its container.
When the needle comes out, hold down your child’s leg, inject the needle into their outer thigh, and hold it in for three seconds before releasing. The medication automatically works to ensure the right dose is administered.
Once the dosage has been administered, call 911 or take your child to the emergency room immediately for follow-up care.
When should my child carry an EpiPen?
Dr. Valencia recommends children with severe, life-threatening allergies carry an EpiPen with them at all times, so it can be administered right away in case of emergency. Children with mild or moderate allergies do not usually need an EpiPen.
To determine if your child needs to carry an EpiPen, Dr. Valencia and her team assess your child’s allergies and develop a treatment plan. The treatment plan might involve a plan to help your child avoid exposure to the allergen, medication for mild allergic reactions, and carrying an EpiPen in case of anaphylactic shock.
If Dr. Valencia determines your child needs an EpiPen, our team trains you and your child on how to use it as part of an emergency preparedness plan. Our team also can teach your school and other adults in close contact with your child how to react in an emergency.
Even with the best prevention plan in place, anaphylactic shock is a scary and dangerous reaction that can happen to children with severe allergies. Fortunately, carrying and properly using an EpiPen can save your child from the worst potential outcomes.
For more information about EpiPens and other treatment options for your child’s allergies, contact our team at Valencia Pediatrics today.