Just like a diligent scout, a food allergy family’s motto is to “be prepared.” What happens, though, if you have what you need, but don’t know how to use it correctly? In the case of life-saving medication that is used to treat anaphylaxis, knowing how to properly administer an epinephrine auto-injector is critical.
According to a recent study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) published in the January 2015 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, only 16 percent of people using epinephrine injectors for a severe allergic reaction did so correctly.
The study looked at 146 patients using epinephrine auto-injectors or inhalers from multiple UTMB allergy/immunology clinic sites. Participants demonstrated how they used the device and were evaluated compared with established standards.
Of the 102 patients in the epinephrine group, only 16 percent used the epinephrine auto-injector properly. More than 50 percent missed three or more steps. The most common error was not holding the unit in place for at least 10 seconds after triggering release of the epinephrine. Other common errors included failure to place the needle end of the device on the thigh and not depressing the device forcefully enough to activate the injection.
“Our study suggests that either people weren’t properly trained in how to use these devices, didn’t completely understand the instructions even after training, or forgot the instructions over time,” said allergist Rana Bonds, MD, ACAAI Fellow and lead author of the study, in a press release. “Younger patients [aged 40 and under] and those with prior medical education were more likely to use the auto-injector correctly.”
Being able to use the device correctly was not associated with a particular clinic, a patient’s education level or whether someone in a family had used a similar device. Survey outcomes also showed only 7 percent of those using metered-dose inhalers for asthma executed all the steps necessary for maximum impact of the prescribed medicine.
“We found that incorrect use of these medical devices is still a problem,” said Bonds. “Despite the redesign of the auto-injector for easier use, most patients continued to make at least one mistake with the device. Most patients made multiple mistakes and would not have benefitted from self-administration of the potentially life-saving treatment if the need arose.”
Unfortunately, many think they are using their epinephrine auto-injector properly when they are not. When did you last review the instructions for your epinephrine auto-injector? Take the time today to revisit those instructions so you can be prepared in an emergency.