Q&A – Using an EpiPen correctly at work
Employees with a life-threatening, acute allergy usually have an EpiPen with them. It (temporarily) halts a severe allergic reaction, provided it is used correctly. Can you administer an EpiPen at work, and if so, how do you do it?
What’s an EpiPen for?
If an employee has an extreme allergic reaction – also known as anaphylaxis – various symptoms may occur. Some examples are shortness of breath, a swollen tongue and throat, and even loss of consciousness.
An auto-injector with adrenaline counteracts these potentially life-threatening effects. By placing the pen forcefully on the skin, a needle will shoot out and the adrenaline will be injected. It narrows the blood vessels, relaxes the lung muscles, and facilitates breathing.
Did you know…
…that EpiPen is by far the best-known brand of auto-injectors. The term is therefore used as a proper name. But there are also many other products, such as Jext, Anapen, and Emerade.
What must you do as an employer?
Employees with an increased risk of or with a history of extreme allergic reactions are prescribed an auto-injector by their doctor. They must always carry the auto-injectors with them. As an employer, it is essential that you are aware of what the symptoms provoke in the employee (e.g. nuts or a wasp sting) and which injector is being used. After all, the exact application differs from pen to pen.
In addition, both the employee’s direct manager and some colleagues must be able to administer the injector correctly. After all, there are strict points for attention. For example, the injection is best administered in the thigh, never in the buttocks, feet, or hands.
Some rules of thumb for using an auto-injector
- Ask if the employee always has two EpiPens with them; sometimes one injection is not enough. In that case, a second auto-injector must be administered five to ten minutes after the first.
- Inform a doctor immediately after administration. Adrenaline halts the worst symptoms, but the allergy still needs to be treated.
- An auto-injector must be stored in a cool, dark place, preferably in its original packaging. Keep this in mind if, for example, the employee travels frequently or works in a hot or cold environment.
- The employee must regularly check that the liquid is still clear and colourless. If the solution is discoloured, if it contains a precipitate, or if the expiry date is exceeded, the employee must buy new injectors.
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In order to provide First Aid in the event of an accident or health problem, you, as the employer of 20 or more employees, must have one or more qualified First Aid responders in the workplace. Our First Aid responder introductory course, the in-house emergency response basic training course, or the First Aid responder refresher course will help you find your way.