Safe use of adrenaline for people with anaphylaxis

2 APRIL 2012

Those at risk of anaphylaxis are likely to carry an adrenaline autoinjector that they or a carer can use in the case of emergency. When someone has an anaphylactic reaction, adrenaline needs to be given as soon as possible.

An article in the April edition of Australian Prescriber explains that there are two different brands of adrenaline injectors available in Australia – EpiPen and Anapen – and that while they have many similarities, there are also some important differences between the two devices that patients and carers need to know about.

Experts from the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) write that while both devices can be injected into the patient’s thigh through a single layer of clothing (though not through seams or pockets), each device has a different method of administration.

The EpiPen is designed to be held in the middle with the fingers and thumb forming a fist around the device. With the Anapen you need to remove the safety cap and then press the red button with your thumb so it clicks.

Regardless of the brand of device, the injector should be held in place for 10 seconds once it’s activated, and the thigh should be massaged after the injection.

You can practise using the autoinjector with a training device – ask your doctor about this.

The authors – Sandra Vale, Jill Smith and Clinical Associate Professor Richard Loh – say that while patients and carers would hope not to find themselves in a situation where they need to use adrenaline, it’s always better to be prepared.

After an anaphylactic event, patients may need further medical assistance, so they should be taken to a medical facility where they can be monitored for several hours.

The Australian Prescriber article outlines several ways that patients and their carers can make sure they – and their adrenaline autoinjector – are ready for any situation:

  • The expiry date on adrenaline autoinjectors needs to be checked regularly, and the shelf life is generally about two years
  • Adrenaline is heat sensitive, so should be stored at room temperature
  • Autoinjectors should never be refrigerated as this can affect the autoinjector mechanism
  • Patients who are prescribed an adrenaline autoinjector should be given a personal 'ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis' completed by their doctor; and

Patients should always carry their adrenaline autoinjector and ASCIA Action Plan with them.

To read the full article and others, visit

Individuals with questions about their medicine, including adrenaline autoinjectors, can also call the Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE or 1300 633 424), Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm EST.


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at