Only half of patients use life-saving epinephrine injectors

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The most effective, life-saving treatment for a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is epinephrine. Yet a study shows in an emergency, 52% of adults with potentially life-threatening allergies didn’t use the epinephrine auto-injectors (EAI) they were prescribed.

The study examined 597 surveys representing 917 people. Some adults provided information both for themselves and their child with an EAI prescription.

“The majority of people surveyed (89%) filled the prescriptions they were given for an EAI,” says Dr Christopher Warren, at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “But almost half (45%) said they didn’t have their EAI with them during their most severe allergic reaction. This was despite the fact that 78% of the people responding had been hospitalised for their allergy at some point in their lifetime. Another 21% said they didn’t know how to use their EAI.”

ACAAI recommends that anyone who has been prescribed an EAI should always have it with them and that they should always carry two as the possibility exists that a severe reaction can reoccur. Moreover, epinephrine should be administered at the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction. This is particularly important for those who have had a previous anaphylactic reaction or who have both a severe allergy and asthma.

“It’s not enough to simply pick up your EAI prescription,” says Dr Ruchi Gupta, at the Institute for Public Health and Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “You need to know how to use your EAI and always carry it, to be prepared for an allergy emergency. It could save your life.” About half the survey participants said an EAI was accessible (within five minutes) all of the time, while 44% said they personally carried at least one EAI all the time. Fewer than 25% of those surveyed said they routinely carried multiple EAIs.

Daily management of allergies to food, medication, latex, and/or insect stings can adversely impact quality of life (QoL) 1,2 and impose considerable economic burden3 onto affected patients and their caregivers. Studies suggest that such allergies are remarkably common in the US,4,5 with food allergies (FA) in particular having substantially risen in prevalence over recent decades6 to affect an estimated 8% of children7 and 5% of adults.8 Clinically, there is substantial variation in how allergic reactions can present and reactions to the same food can vary in severity.

Christopher M Warren, Justin M Zaslavsky, Kristin Kan, Jonathan M Spergel, Ruchi S Gupta

American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology material
Annals of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology abstract

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