Background: Patients with allergy as well as their parents frequently fail to use the self-administered epinephrine injection (EpiPen) properly in cases of allergic emergencies.
Objectives: To determine the benefit of an instruction session with follow-up instruction.
Methods: We evaluated 141 patients aged 1.9-23.4 years (median 5.8 years, 83% with food allergy) or their parents (for those aged < 12 years) who were trained in the use of the EpiPen during the first diagnostic visit to the allergy clinic during 2006-2009. At the next follow-up visit, the patients or their parents were asked to list the indications for epinephrine administration and to demonstrate the five steps involved in using the EpiPen. Each step was scored on a scale of 0-2.
Results: Fourteen participants (9.9%) had used self-injectable epinephrine in the past. Only 65 (46%) brought the device with them to the follow-up visit. The mean total score for the whole sample was 4.03 +/- 3. Fifty-three participants (38%) failed to remove the cap before trying to apply the device. Only 8 (5.6%) had a maximum score. The patients and their parents were reinstructed in the use of the device: 41 participants were reexamined at a subsequent follow-up visit after 1.02 +/- 0.56 years; their mean score improved from 4.71 +/- 3.04 to 6.73 +/- 3.18 (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Patients with severe allergic reactions, as well as their parents, are not sufficiently skilled in the use of the EpiPen after only one instruction session with a specialist. Repeated instruction may improve the results and we therefore recommend that the instructions be repeated at every follow-up visit.