Epinephrine autoinjectors not used in nearly 80% of anaphylactic events

Photo of Julie Wang

Julie Wang

ORLANDO, Fla. — Many parents of children who require allergy treatment with epinephrine autoinjectors do not regularly use the product during an anaphylactic event, according to research presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition. A significant number of these parents were too scared or emotional to administer the potentially life-saving drug when needed, researchers said.

Julie Wang, MD
, professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and colleagues added that correct epinephrine autoinjector use among Americans with anaphylaxis is relatively uncommon — between 16% and 32%.

Underuse of epinephrine to treat severe allergic reactions continues to be an important area to address with patients and their families,” Wang told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Identifying barriers to treating severe allergic reactions will allow targeted education, interventions to optimize management of allergic reactions or both.”

To better understand the barriers to correct autoinjector use, Glassberg and colleagues created a survey that was distributed to caregivers of children who received allergy treatment at a hospital-based pediatric allergy clinic and a faculty practice pediatric allergy clinic. The survey gathered information on the child’s allergy history and their most recent experience with epinephrine autoinjectors.

Girl administering epinephrine autoinjector 

Most children that require epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis do not receive the medication, according to research presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition. For 40.3% of parents surveyed, their child’s reaction did not seem enough to warrant the drug’s use, and nearly 20% reported that they were too scared or emotional to treat their child.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Of the 137 surveys collected, 77% were completed by mothers and 23% were completed by fathers of children with an average age of 7.435 years. More than half of these patients (68%) were male.

Most parents (78.5%) reported that autoinjectors were not used during their child’s allergic reactions. The most common reason for not using epinephrine was that the reaction did not seem severe enough to warrant epinephrine use (40.3%). Other reasons included that it was their child’s first allergic reaction and no epinephrine was prescribed at the time (33.1%) or other medications — including diphenhydramine — were used instead (27.4%).

The researchers said 18.5% of parents reported being too scared or emotional to administer an epinephrine autoinjector to the child.

“Pediatricians should ensure that families of children at risk for anaphylaxis are prepared with epinephrine autoinjectors because allergic reactions can occur unexpectedly, and the severity of reactions are unpredictable,” Wang said. “Pediatricians should also discuss with families the situations when epinephrine would be needed, provide written emergency plans and address any concerns families may have related to identifying symptoms and use of medications to empower families to initiate prompt treatment for allergic reactions.” – by Katherine Bortz


Glassberg B, et al. Factors affecting use and misuse of epinephrine autoinjectors in pediatric patients. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Nov. 2-6, 2018; Orlando, Fla.

Disclosure: Wang reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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