Allergies in Children: Giving an Epinephrine Shot to a Child
British Columbia Specific Information
A food allergy occurs when the body mistakes a particular food as harmful.
The most common foods, also known as the 10 priority food allergens, that can cause a severe allergic reaction include: eggs, milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), wheat, sesame, and mustard. For more information on the 10 priority food allergens, visit Health Canada Food Allergies.
A severe allergic reaction, also called anaphylaxis, can happen quickly and be life threatening. Taking action right away can save lives. To learn more about what you can to do help protect yourself and others with severe food allergy, visit Food Allergy Canada. If you are a teen or young adult with a food allergy and are looking for additional advice and support visit Why Risk It.
For information on managing food allergies in children, see HealthLinkBC File #100a Severe Food Allergies in Children, HealthLinkBC File #100c Allergy Safe Child Care Facilities and Healthy Canadians Tips for Avoiding Common Allergens in Food.
For more information about allergies and anaphylaxis, you may call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or registered dietitian. Our nurses are available any time of the day or night, every day of the year, and our dietitians are available Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can also Email a HealthLinkBC Dietitian.
Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency numbers if you are having a severe allergic reaction.
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Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. If your child has had a severe allergic reaction in the past, you know how frightening it can be. Symptoms of breathing problems, itching, and swelling can come on quickly and become life-threatening. Giving your child an epinephrine shot can slow down or stop an allergic reaction. That's why it is important to have epinephrine with you at all times and to know the right way to use it. It could save your child's life someday.
How do I give the shot?
- Your epinephrine injector may have a black or orange tip. Grasp the epinephrine shot injector in your hand with the black (or orange) tip pointing down. Form a fist around the injector. Do not touch the tip.
- With the other hand, pull off the grey (or blue) cap.
- Hold the black or orange tip close to your child's outer thigh. Jab the tip firmly into your child's thigh. Jab through clothing if you must, but bare skin is best. The injector should go straight into the skin, at a 90-degree angle to the thigh. Do not give the shot into a buttock or a vein.
- Keep the injector in your child's outer thigh for 10 seconds. Note: It is normal for most of the liquid to be left in the injector. Do not try to inject the remaining liquid.
- Remove the injector, and place your hand on the area where the medicine entered the skin. Rub the area for about 10 seconds.
- Put the used injector, needle-end first, into the storage tube that comes with your injector. Do not bend the needle. Screw on the cap of the storage tube. Take your child to the emergency room, and take the used injector with you.
Symptoms can come back after the shot. So get your child to the emergency room right away, even if your child is feeling better.
Your child should feel the effects of the medicine almost right away. These may include a rapid heartbeat and nervousness as well as improved breathing. The benefits of the shot usually last 10 to 20 minutes.
In some severe cases, you may need to give a second shot. Your doctor will explain when a second shot is needed. Make sure you understand, and ask questions if you are not sure. Too much epinephrine can cause serious side effects, such as difficulty breathing.
What do I do after I give the shot?
- Immediately call 911. Tell the operator that you gave your child a shot and that more epinephrine needs to be brought in the ambulance. Or if a hospital is close by, take your child to the emergency room. At the hospital, give the doctor or nurse the used injector. It will be checked and then disposed of properly.
- Your child may need to be observed in the hospital for several hours to make sure symptoms don't return. If your child is discharged from the hospital sooner, sit in the waiting room.
- If your child has any heart problems, be sure to tell the doctor or nurse.
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