How to Use an Epi-Pen

Samantha Fowler

About 15 million people in the United States carry an EpiPen, but how exactly do you use an EpiPen? Epi-Pens can be lifesaving during an allergic reaction, however, if they are not used properly, they can do you more harm than good. It is critical to know where your EpiPen is, take proper care, and make sure you have the correct dosage (.3 mg for 66lbs+ and .15 for under 66 lbs.)

What exactly is an Epipen? An EpiPen is an epinephrine injection in a pen-like capsule. It is used to temporarily treat an allergic reaction to insect bites/stings, food, drugs, and other substances. According to Web MD, “Epinephrine works quickly to improve breathing, stimulate the heart, raise a dropping blood pressure, reverse hives, and reduce swelling of the face, lips, and throat.” During anaphylaxis (allergic reaction), blood pressure drops, swelling and constriction of the airway. Once you notice someone is having a severe allergic reaction, ask where their Epi-Pen is and use epinephrine right away. 

How do you properly use an EpiPen? Most people have been prescribed an EpiPen if they have a certain allergy. However, if someone is unable to use an EpiPen, it is important to know how to use one. states, “Step 1: Grasp with orange tip (needle side) facing downward. Remove the blue safety cap by pulling straight up-do not bend or twist. Step 2: Place the orange tip against the middle or outer thigh. Swing and push the auto injection until it clicks. Hold in place for three seconds – count slowly “one, two, three” Afterwards: Call 911 or go to the Emergency Room right away.” It is important to call 911 right after administering epinephrine because a second allergic reaction could take place after the epinephrine wears off. You may inject another dose of epinephrine five to ten minutes after the previous administration only if symptoms get worse.

It is critical to know that it is possible to overdose on epinephrine. This may occur if you inject too big of a dose or administer too many doses in a short time frame. I have previously stated that you can inject another dose after the five to 10-minute mark of the previous injection. Again, a second dose is only needed if symptoms of allergic reaction get worse after the first injection. 


There are two different types of EpiPens. One is the adult dose and the other is a child’s dosage. Each dose is dependent on weight and not age. Your healthcare provider will prescribe you the right kind of dosage, but it is safe to know which dose is right for you. The adult dose is .3 mg of epinephrine which usually comes in a yellow tube. 


Information from claims this is used for adults and children weighing more than 66 lbs. The other type is EpiPen Jr. which is only .15 mg of epinephrine. This pen usually is a green color and is used for children 33-66 lbs. It is recommended that you check which doses you may be injecting before administering it and make sure it is the correct dosage. The wrong dosage could lead to overdose and/or death. 

After injecting epinephrine, side effects may occur. According to, “Side effects may include paleness, dizziness, weakness, shaking, headache, throbbing, restlessness, anxiety, tenseness, and fear. Stop taking EpiPen® and get immediate medical help if you experience serious side effects such as difficulty breathing, increased heart rate (pounding heart), irregular or skipped heartbeats, chest pain (also called angina), and stroke (symptoms include blurred vision, difficulty speaking, headache, dizziness, and weakness).” Just like any medication, some degree of side effects is normal, except for the more serious ones like difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, etc.


Correctly storing and taking care of the capsule is just as important as physically administering the medication. Proper storage keeps the medication effective. states, “Keep your EpiPen® Auto-Injector at room temperature. Do not expose the pen to direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate or freeze. Do not keep EpiPen® in a vehicle during extremely hot or cold weather. “ The capsule is NOT waterproof, so refrain from contact with water. Also, to prevent damage to the capsule, don’t drop the capsule. Occasionally look through the viewing window. The medication should be clear. Replace pen if medication is discolored, has solid particles, signs of leakage, or is expired. You can get a pack of EpiPens (two per pack) at any local pharmacy at anywhere from $150 to  $400 


In conclusion, an EpiPen is an autoinjector that has a specific amount of epinephrine based on weight. Administer medication by removing the blue safety cap, inject into the middle or side of the thigh with force, and slowly count to three. Properly storing the medication is arguably just as important as administering the medication. Replace medication if the viewing window is discolored, has solid particles, or has signs of leakage.