If your child has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in the past, you know how frightening it can be. Symptoms of breathing problems, itching, belly pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling can come on quickly and become life-threatening. Giving your child an epinephrine shot can slow down or stop an allergic reaction. That's why it is important to have epinephrine with you at all times and to know the right way to use it. It could save your child's life someday.
First, be sure you know which end of the injector is the tip and which end is the top. Grasp the epinephrine shot injector in one fist with the tip pointing down. Do not touch the tip.
With your other hand, pull off the cap.
Hold your child's leg firmly with one hand, and hold the injector tip close to your child's thigh. Jab the tip firmly into your child's thigh. Jab through clothing if you must, but bare skin is best. The injector tip should go straight into the skin, at a 90-degree angle to the thigh. Keep the injector tip in your child's thigh for 10 seconds. The injection is complete. It is normal for most of the liquid to be left in the injector. Do not try to inject the remaining fluid.
Remove the injector, and place your hand on the area where the medicine entered the skin. Rub the area for about 10 seconds.
Put the used injector, needle-end first, into the storage tube that comes with your injector. Do not bend the needle. Screw on the cap of the storage tube. Take your child to the emergency room, and bring the used injector with you.
What to do next
Your child should feel the effects of the epinephrine shot almost right away. These may include a rapid heartbeat and nervousness as well as improved breathing. The benefits of the shot usually last 10 to 20 minutes.
Symptoms can come back after the shot. So get your child to the emergency room right away, even if your child is feeling better.
In some severe cases, you may need to give a second shot. Your doctor will explain when a second shot is needed. Make sure you understand, and ask questions if you are not sure. Too much epinephrine can cause serious side effects, such as difficulty breathing.
After giving the shot
- Immediately call 911. Tell the operator that you gave your child a shot for a severe allergic reaction. Or if a hospital is close by, take your child to the emergency room. At the hospital, give the doctor or nurse the used injector. It will be checked and then disposed of properly.
- Your child may need to be observed in the hospital for several hours to make sure symptoms don't return.
- If your child has any heart problems, be sure to tell the doctor or nurse.
Current as of: February 27, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Lora J. Stewart MD - Allergy and Immunology