Voluntarily reported unintentional injections from epinephrine auto-injectors

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb;125(2):419-423.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.10.056.


Background: Epinephrine auto-injectors provide life-saving prehospital treatment for individuals experiencing anaphylaxis in community settings.

Objective: To determine the number, demographics, and associated circumstances and outcomes of unintentional injections from epinephrine auto-injectors.

Methods: We searched the databases of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the Food and Drug Administration's Safety Information and Adverse Event Report System for these incidents as reported by members of the public and by health care professionals.

Results: From 1994 to 2007, a total of 15,190 unintentional injections from epinephrine auto-injectors were reported to US Poison Control Centers, 60% of them from 2003 to 2007. Those unintentionally injected had a median age of 14 years (interquartile range, 8-35), 55% were female, and 85% were injected in a home or other residence. Management was documented in only 4101 cases (27%), of whom 53% were observed without intervention, 29% were treated, 13% were neither held for observation nor treated, and 4% refused treatment. In contrast, from 1969 to 2007, only 105 unintentional injections from epinephrine auto-injectors were reported to MedWatch. Forty percent of these occurred during attempts to treat allergic reactions. Injuries resulting in permanent sequelae were rarely reported to either US Poison Control Centers or to MedWatch.

Conclusion: The number of reported unintentional injections from epinephrine auto-injectors increased annually from 1994 to 2007. To prevent these unintentional injections, improved epinephrine auto-injector design is needed, along with increased vigilance in training the trainers and in training and coaching the users, as well as efforts to increase public awareness of the role of epinephrine auto-injectors in the first-aid treatment of anaphylaxis in the community.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anaphylaxis / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Administration / adverse effects*
  • Self Administration / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Epinephrine