Allergies and Expired EpiPens

Allergy Experts Agree—EpiPens Last Past Their Expiration Date

A new study from the University of California, San Diego found that expired EpiPen auto-injectors can still be used in emergency situations. As anyone with a severe allergy can attest, having an EpiPen on hand is crucial, as it is the only treatment to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

EpiPen auto injector in Houston

What Causes an Allergic Reaction?

Allergy experts in Houston, Texas explain an allergy as an exaggerated response from your immune system to a normally harmless substance. Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against germs and bacteria; it is essential in maintaining your health and preventing infections. Your immune system is comprised of:

  • Cells
  • Proteins
  • Tissues
  • Organs

When a threat is detected, the immune system responds by attacking the substances that are invading the body. Antibodies – proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders – are produced during this attack. These trigger the release of chemicals called histamines, which are responsible for these telltale symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Itching
  • Mucus Production.

The epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, in auto-injectors is a hormone that helps relax muscles. In the event of an allergic reaction, the epinephrine can open airways and reduce swelling.

New Allergy Research About Expired Epipens Was Needed

Over the past 10 years, the price of auto-injection devices has gone up 400 percent. Because of this, researchers began looking into how long after the expiration date the injectors actually lasted.

The study conducted by Dr. Lee Cantrell found that EpiPens Jrs. contained at least 90 percent of epinephrine 29 months after their expiration date and EpiPens contained 84 percent 50 months after. That’s more than four years past the printed expiration date.

This study confirmed what many patients are already doing, saving expired EpiPens. While this study is not suggesting that you should stop purchasing new auto-injectors when your current one expires, it is simply giving patients an additional option. Expired auto-injectors can be saved and used in an emergency situation.

All allergy experts agree, in an emergency situation, an expired epinephrine is better than nothing at all.

For more information on the use of EpiPen auto-injectors, contact your Houston allergist.

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