An epinephrine auto-injector provides an emergency dose of epinephrine (adrenaline) to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. Those who have auto-injectors need to know not only how to ply them, but how to properly dispose of them when used, expired, or damaged.

The wrong way to dispose of any auto-injector is tossing it in the garbage, or recycling bin. This is never okay since the FDA considers all auto-injectors – used or unused – to be sharps. “Sharps” is a medical term for devices that have skin-damaging sharp edges or points (e.g., needles, lancets, syringes, infusion sets).

The safe way to dispose of sharps is placing them in an approved sharps container, and leaving the container at a designated collection site—typically places such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, or the health department. However, after using an auto-injector for a food reaction, and calling 911, the device can likely be discarded by an emergency healthcare worker:

  1. Put the used auto-injector, needle first, back into its carrying case.
  2. Re-close the case by placing the gray or colored case top over the non-needle end of the auto-injector; make sure the case closes securely.
  3. Give the used auto-injector to a paramedic or an emergency room professional for disposal.

Otherwise, any used, expired or damaged auto-injectors must be discarded following FDA and community guidelines:

  • Before disposal, sharps must be placed in an FDA approved sharps container, or in a secure heavy-duty plastic household container. Although auto-injectors come in a carrying case, your community may still require them to be placed in an approved disposal container.
  • Call your local sanitation or public health department to find out about sharps disposal rules and collection sites in your area.
  • Your doctor, local hospital, or pharmacist may dispose of auto-injectors for you; it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Even though expired auto-injectors have recessed needles, they are considered sharps and must be disposed of according to FDA and local regulations.

You can learn more about sharps disposal on the FDA’s website; link below.

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