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5 Ways to Be Prepared for an Allergy Emergency

Quick action is essential during a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Kind of like a fire drill, it's smart to occasionally review the instructions your doctor gave you and run through the steps you would take in an emergency.

Here are the top things to know if you're at risk for anaphylaxis:

  1. If your doctor has prescribed injectors for emergencies, make sure two of them are always with you: at school, at a party, on vacation — everywhere. Always have two auto injectors with you in case one doesn't work or you need a second dose. Work with your school to decide where to store the injectors and how you'll get them quickly, if needed. Don't leave them in the car or anywhere else where they might get too hot; temperature can affect how well epinephrine works.
  2. Know the signs of a serious reaction, such as trouble breathing or throat tightness, and be ready to act quickly. You also need to use epinephrine if you have two or more mild symptoms, such as hives plus vomiting or coughing plus belly pain. Follow the instructions your doctor gave you
  3. Practice how to use the epinephrine injector so you don't forget. Are there caps to remove? Which end rests on the skin? Where on the body do you give the injection? How do you hold the injector? Ask for a demonstration at your doctor's office. Visit the manufacturer's website to get detailed instructions. Manufacturers also may supply a practice injector that does not actually have epinephrine in it, so you can practice all the steps safely.
  4. If you have a reaction that seems to be anaphylaxis, give yourself the injection right away. Have someone call 911 while you are giving yourself the injection. If you are alone, call 911 right after injecting epinephrine to take you to the nearest emergency room. Sometimes people have a second wave of symptoms that need medical care. Take the used epinephrine injector to the hospital with you.
  5. Store the epinephrine injectors according to the manufacturer's directions. Note the expiration date and get new ones before the ones you have expire.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021