Epinephrine for the out-of-hospital (first-aid) treatment of anaphylaxis in infants: is the ampule/syringe/needle method practical?

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Dec;108(6):1040-4. doi: 10.1067/mai.2001.119916.


Background: Little information is available about administration of an accurate epinephrine dose to infants experiencing anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.

Objective: Our purpose was to perform a prospective, controlled study of (1) the time needed by parents to draw up an infant epinephrine dose from an ampule and (2) the dose accuracy.

Methods: We gave 18 parents written instructions and asked them to draw up epinephrine 0.09 mL. We timed them by means of a stopwatch and measured the epinephrine content (in micrograms) in each dose by using HPLC-UV. Eighteen resident physicians, 18 general duty nurses, and 18 emergency department nurses served as controls.

Results: The parents took significantly longer (P < .05) than the controls to draw up the dose; the mean (+/- SEM) times were 142 +/- 13 seconds (range, 83-248) for the parents, 52 +/- 3 seconds (range, 30-83) for the physicians, 40 +/- 2 seconds (range, 26-71) for the general duty nurses, and 29 +/- 0.09 seconds (range, 27-33) for the emergency department nurses. The control groups did not differ significantly from each other in speed (P > .05). The epinephrine content of the doses drawn up by the parents ranged 40-fold in contrast to the physicians' doses (7- to 8-fold), general duty nurses' doses (3-fold), and emergency department nurses' doses (2-fold). The mean epinephrine content did not differ significantly (P > .05) among the 4 groups.

Conclusions: Most parents were unable to draw up an infant epinephrine dose rapidly or accurately. Most health care professionals drew up the dose rapidly; however, their accuracy was compromised by inherent variations of epinephrine concentrations in the ampules (United States Pharmacopeia compendial limits, 90% to 115%) and the inherent difficulty of measuring low volumes (<0.1 mL) of epinephrine. User-friendly premeasured epinephrine doses suitable for infants should be developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis / drug therapy*
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • First Aid*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Needles
  • Prospective Studies
  • Syringes


  • Epinephrine