Auto Injectors

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An autoinjector (commonly known as Epi Pen) is a medical device designed to deliver a dose of a particular drug.


Most autoinjectors are spring-loaded syringes.


By design, autoinjectors are easy to use and are intended for self-administration by patients, or administration by untrained personnel.

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Why is an auto injector needed?

Adrenaline auto injector devices (or ‘adrenaline pens’) are prescribed to people with allergies who are at risk of having a severe allergic reaction (known as ‘anaphylaxis’).

It is a medical device for injecting a measured dose or doses of epinephrine (adrenaline).


Auto-injectors contain active ingredient adrenaline, which is a hormone produced naturally by the body that is usually released by the adrenal glands in times of stress. This helps the body to deal with life-threatening situations by preparing the body. 

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Allergy Symptoms

  • Trouble breathing, wheezing, or your airways shut down

  • Your face, mouth, lips, or tongue swell

  • Skin reactions like hives, itching, flushing

  • Nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • You get dizzy, faint, or collapse

When and how to use an auto injector

The auto injector needs to be used when

  1. The casualty is known to have an allergy

  2. They are displaying signs of Anaphylaxis, even if the tirgger is unknown (See our anaphylaxis section here)

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Remove the auto injector from it's protectvie casing

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The auto injector is still safe even out of the case, you'll need to remove the safety pin in order for it to work. 

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The auto injector is designed to go through clothing so no need to remove them. 

The best course of action is to allow the casualty to self administer where possible, if not possible then: 

  1. Grasp the pen firmly

  2. Press the tip of the pen again the soft part of the thigh area

  3. Press or short jab firmly into the leg and hold it place for 5 seconds

  4. The injection is instant 

  5. Remove the pen and massage the injection area for 10 seconds

After the injection

Take these steps after the first injection:

  • If there's no relief, take a second dose. You could wait as few as 5 minutes for a severe reaction or 15 minutes if it is mild.

  • Have someone call 999.

  • Massage the injection site for 10 seconds to stimulate blood vessels and help the body absorb the medication.

  • Go to the emergency room after an injection, even if your symptoms get better or seem to go away. Severe episodes can last 4 to 12 hours, and you never know at the beginning how long yours will last.

Monitor their condition:


Where they have been struggling for breath you should see signs of improvement here

Can they tell you if their throat area feels less swollen? 


Is there pulse gaining strength, returning to normal parameters and holding?

Skin colour:

Is there skin colour returning to normal?


Are they becoming more coherent and answering questions sensibly?

Is there a risk of harm if they do not need auto injector?

​Unless the injected person has a pre-existing heart condition there is very little risk however recommended guidelines are that if an epipen has been administered then you should call an ambulance immediatley anyway. 

Some side effects are: 

  • Enhanced breathing, quickenedheart, and raised blood pressure.

  • Reduce swelling of the face and respiratory system.

  • Feel a rush of energy

  • Mayt feel anxious

  • Blood pressure will rise. This is important to know if you normally have high blood pressure

  • Might be talkative

Legal aspects of administering an auto injector

Medicines legislation restricts the administration of injectable medicines.

Unless self-administered, they may only be administered by or in accordance with the instructions of a doctor (eg by a nurse).

However, in the case of adrenaline there is an exemption to this restriction, which means in an emergency a layperson is permitted to administer it by injection for the purpose of saving life.


When can an Epipen be used?

The use of an Epipen to treat anaphylactic shock is an example of an exemption from the restriction imposed by medicines legislation.

Therefore, first-aiders may administer an Epipen if they are dealing with a life-threatening emergency involving a casualty who has been prescribed and is in possession of an Epipen, and where the first-aider is trained to use it