Sunday, May 20, 2012


In April, we had the gracious Dr. Copenhauer visit the BCBC meeting and give us information about the proper use of the Epipen. This is a first aid tool for the emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions, commonly bee stings. It injects epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, to tighten blood vessels and relax muscles in the airways, lessening the dangerous symptoms of severe allergic reactions.

Normal symptoms of a honey bee sting include swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the sting. Systemic symptoms, or reactions that occur where you didn't get stung, are of greater concern. A drop in blood pressure is the most dangerous symptom, because in this case blood isn't being pumped into your brain, which can lead to death.

No matter the symptoms, if you are in doubt of the severity of the problem, use the Epipen! It results in a feeling like you drank too much coffee, but these symptoms pass in about 20 minutes and are preferable to a severe allergic reaction. About 25-30% of people need a second dose, so it is a good idea to keep two around.

To use the Epipen, remove the cap, jam it into the victim's thigh, and hold it there for about 10 seconds to allow the pen to deposit all of the medicine into the bloodstream. The top picture demonstrates a foolish hold; if the pen were to accidentally be upside down with the thumb placed on top, the needle would surge into the administrator's thumb instead of the victim's thigh. The bottom photo demonstrates the correct hold.

Dr. Copenhauer also suggested that a "feeling of dread" is a common indicator that the sting is very severe. In this case, it is better to administer epinephrine than to wait to see how the symptoms play out. Interestingly, the "knock-off" brands are not as effective. Additionally, even if the pen has passed its expiration date, it is better to use it than to wait. Some ibuprofen might also help as an anti-inflammatory in case epinephrine is not available.

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