Sari Wachtelhausen

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There are many life-saving medications that have changed the medical world, such as insulin. Epinephrine is another medical miracle that has saved many lives, young and old. Sheldon Kaplan invented the ComboPen for the U.S. military in order to auto-inject a nerve gas antidote. During that time, he also created a similar device for those fighting another battle altogether: anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a deadly reaction from an allergy that closes the airways.  Those who suffer from allergies had a hard time getting medication that would save their lives. With the EpiPen, life-saving adrenaline was at hand.


Epinephrine is the more scientifically acceptable word for adrenaline, and works by patching leaky blood vessels, which raises blood pressure and allows the airways to open back up during anaphylaxis. The body will naturally produce adrenaline in situations where of danger or the need to act quickly, but not enough to stop an anaphylactic attack. The effect of the injection is rapid, but doesn’t last long. Different brands have different modes of distributing the medication, but all have one thing in common: a very long, painful needle.


EpiPen needles are notorious for being ridiculously long and more painful than the average shot. Even though they are smaller than the average flu shot needle length (about 1 inch), epinephrine needles are thick and can be clearly seen if injected into a clear object. Some EpiPens have needle caps to prevent any injury concerning the used needle (this video clearly shows you the needle and the difference between having a cap or none: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G8YTbeLWKc).

A new version of the EpiPen, called the Auvi Q, entered the market a few years ago. Awhile after it was released, the medication was recalled for further investigation on the dosage amount. According to those who used the injector, it was less painful than other brands and spoke in a Siri-sounding voice, guiding the epinephrine injection. The Auvi Q was off-market until recently, when it was confirmed safe to use. Opinions vary on the instructional voice, some saying it is calming and helpful, while others say it is a bit creepy (a helpful video on this brand of epinephrine can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZl5vXwZUOg). This medication will continue to save lives for years to come.