Here’s a tip that might someday save your life, or that of a loved one: two to four times a year, review the proper way to use your epinephrine auto-injector. This review should include yourself, and anyone around you (family, friends, colleagues) who may need to administer emergency epinephrine.

Plan the review around recurring calendar dates such as the winter and summer solstice, and the spring and fall equinox. Or, do it the first of each year and on July fourth. You might schedule the refresh sessions on family member’s birthdays or anniversaries—whatever helps remind you.

Why Practice Is Vital

The reason for regular auto-injector instruction is twofold:

First, an onset of anaphylaxis is not the time to be racking your brain for proper auto-injector protocol. Emergencies often scatter our thoughts. The more automatic your actions, the better.

Second, a recent study found that most people having auto-injectors use them incorrectly. Out of 102 study participants, only 16 percent demonstrated proper protocol. Most made one or several mistakes that, in a real emergency, would prevent them from getting the life-saving benefits of ephinephrine.

The most common user errors were:

  • Not holding the injector in place for at least ten seconds after releasing the trigger (most frequent error).
  • Not depressing the trigger with enough force to activate the injection.
  • Failing to place the needle end of the injector on the thigh.

The researchers found that correct auto-injector use was not related to a specific clinic affiliation, patient education level, or whether other family members had used a similar instrument.

Ounce of Preparation

“Our study suggests that either people weren’t properly trained in how to use these devices, didn’t completely understand the instructions even after training, or forgot the instructions over time,” said allergist and lead researcher Rana Bonds, MD, ACAAI Fellow.

Whatever the reason for ineffective auto-injector use, one remedy is a regular review and practice of proper technique. Memory refreshment is the only way to become aware of things forgotten or mis-remembered. To put a spin on Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”

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