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If you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past, you know how frightening it can be. Symptoms of breathing problems, itching, and swelling can come on quickly and become life-threatening. Giving yourself an epinephrine shot can slow down or stop an allergic reaction. That's why it is important to have an allergy kit containing an epinephrine shot with you at all times and to know the right way to use it: It could save your life someday.

 What do I need to know first?
 Why do I need an epinephrine shot?
 How do I give the shot?
 Where to go from here

For more information about allergic reactions, see the topics:

  • Allergic Reaction.
  • Allergies to Insect Stings.
  • Drug Allergies.
  • Food Allergies.

Return to topic:

  • Allergic Reaction
  • Allergies to Insect Stings
  • Drug Allergies
  • Food Allergies

There are some important things to think about before you give the shot:

  • The shot does not replace the need to be seen by a doctor. After giving yourself a shot, seek emergency care. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can return or get worse after an epinephrine shot.
  • An epinephrine shot should only be injected into the side of the thigh. Do not give the shot into a buttock or a vein.
  • Learn the signs that point to a severe allergic reaction. If you feel them coming on, act quickly.

It is also important to:

  • Keep an allergy kit with you at all times. Many people keep one at home and one at work or school.
  • Keep two epinephrine shots in each kit in case a second shot is needed.
  • Always wear a medical alert bracelet to let others know about your allergies.
  • Teach your family, friends, and coworkers how to give you a shot in case you need help.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. After I have given myself the shot, I can just go about my business.

    1. True
    2. False

Continue to Why do I need an epinephrine shot?
Return to Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

An epinephrine shot can slow down or stop your allergic reaction. Epinephrine relieves wheezing, breathing problems, and itching from hives. It helps keep blood pressure within a normal range and also reduces swelling that can occur in your hands, feet, eyelids, tongue, and throat.

If you have had a serious allergic reaction in the past, your risk of having another is high. But people react differently when they are exposed to the allergen that causes their allergic reaction. It is important to get clear instructions from your doctor on when you should give yourself an epinephrine shot.

An epinephrine shot comes as an automatic injector that is prefilled with one shot of epinephrine. It is made to be quick and simple to use.

Take care of your epinephrine shot:

  • To protect it from light, keep the epinephrine shot in the tube provided until you are ready to use it.
  • Store epinephrine shot at room temperature—59°F (16°C) to 86°F (30°C). Do not refrigerate.
  • Check the expiration dates of the medicines in the allergy kit, and replace the medicines as needed.
  • Check the medicine in the epinephrine shot. It should be clear. If the solution is pinkish brown or has solid particles in it, the epinephrine shot should be replaced.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I should keep my allergy kit in my car so it is always handy.

    1. True
    2. False

Continue to How do I give the shot?
Return to Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

  1. Your epinephrine injector may have a black or orange tip. Grasp the epinephrine shot injector in one fist with the black (or orange) tip pointing down. Do not touch the tip.
  2. With the other hand, pull off the gray (or blue) cap.
  3. Hold the black or orange tip close to your outer thigh. Swing and jab the tip firmly into your outer thigh. Jab through clothing if you must, but bare skin is best. The injector should go straight into your skin, at a 90-degree angle to your thigh.
  4. Keep the injector in your outer thigh for 10 seconds. Note: It is normal for most of the liquid to be left in the injector. Do not try to inject the remaining liquid.
  5. Remove the injector, and place your hand on the area where the medicine entered your skin. Rub the area for about 10 seconds. Take the antihistamine tablet in your allergy kit.
  6. Put the used injector, needle-end first, into the storage tube that comes with your injector. Do not bend the needle. Screw on the cap of the storage tube. Go to the emergency room, and bring the used injector with you.

View a slideshow to see how to do it:

How to Give Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

You should feel the effects of the medicine almost right away. These may include a rapid heartbeat and nervousness as well as improved breathing. The benefits of the shot usually last 10 to 20 minutes.

In some severe cases, you may need to give a second shot. Your doctor will explain when a second shot is needed. Make sure you understand, and ask questions if you are not sure. Too much epinephrine can cause serious side effects, such as trouble breathing.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I don't like the idea of giving myself a shot. If I have an allergic reaction, I can just go to the hospital.

    1. True
    2. False

Continue to Where to go from here
Return to Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot

If you have any questions about giving an epinephrine shot or about when to give a second shot, discuss them with your doctor. It is important to know how to administer an epinephrine shot before you need it.

Return to Allergies: Giving Yourself an Epinephrine Shot


By: Healthwise Staff Last Revised: February 25, 2013
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology

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