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What is an adrenaline autoinjector?

An adrenaline autoinjector is a device that can inject the life-saving medication adrenaline in emergency situations. Adrenaline®, also known as epinephrine, has a number of uses and can treat severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis, which may follow an insect bite or eating a certain food. The classic commercial brand is the EpiPen® which comes in adult and child (junior) versions. The injection is given into the outer mid-thigh. Specific training of the carer and patient is required for each device. School-age children usually need the full-strength injector.

What is an Anaphylaxis Action Plan?

If you have an autoinjector, you must have an Anaphylaxis Action Plan signed by your doctor.

The plan

Use an autoinjector if the following symptoms develop:

  • Difficult or noisy breathing

  • Wheeze or persistent cough

  • Swelling of tongue

  • Swelling, tightness, itchiness in throat

  • Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice

  • Persistent dizziness or fainting

  • Pale and floppy (young children)


  • Adult and child weighing more than 30 kg: 300 mcg

  • Child 10–20 kg (usually 1–5 years): 125 mcg

  • Child less than 10 kg: not usually recommended

The four step use of the autoinjector (pen)

Step 1

  • Remove the pen from its container.

  • Then remove the safety cap from the end of the pen (pull it—don’t twist).

  • Ensure that your thumb is closest to the cap end and not over the sharp end of the pen.

Step 2

  • Hold the pen tightly in the palm of your hand with the needle tip down.

  • Place the needle tip gently against the middle of the outer thigh, in the ‘fleshiest’ part of the muscle (with or without clothing). It should be perpendicular (at a right angle of 90°) to the thigh.

Where to place the autoinjector (EpiPen shown)

Step 3

  • Push down hard against the thigh until you hear or feel a ‘click’ (in the case of the EpiPen).

  • Hold in place for 10 seconds.

Step 4

  • Remove the pen from the thigh.

  • Check the needle tip.

  • Place it back in its plastic container with the needle pointing down.

  • Be careful not to touch the needle.

  • Massage the injection site for 10 to 20 seconds.

  • Apply firm pressure with a clean cloth.

  • Record the time it was given.

  • Call an ambulance.

Rules for an autoinjector (pen)

  • Never put thumb, finger or hand over the needle tip.

  • Do not touch the needle.

  • Do not inject into the buttock.


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