It is not possible to have an epinephrine allergy, because it is made of the same substance as adrenaline, which is continually produced by the human body. Some patients might have such a strong reaction to the drug that they might believe that they have an allergy. Although such a reaction usually is not dangerous, it might be decided that it is too intense or too distressing to the patient to justify further use of the drug.
There are several possible symptoms that might lead patients to believe that they have an epinephrine allergy. These symptoms include breathing problems; tingling in the lips, toes and fingers; and a rapidly beating heart. Patients also have reported feeling shaky, dizzy or lightheaded. Rather than being the effects of an epinephrine allergy, however, these are classic symptoms of an adrenaline rush.
Although it is not possible to have an epinephrine allergy, there are several other possible side effects from taking the drug. The most common symptoms typically are not serious and do not need to be reported to a healthcare professional unless they become more intense or do not eventually subside. These symptoms include vomiting, headache and an upset stomach. Patients also have reported feeling weak, dizzy or having unusually pale skin.
There also are more serious side effects of taking epinephrine, including an irregular, pounding or unusually fast heartbeat as well as breathing problems. These symptoms can be similar to those of the allergic reaction, so they might be difficult to diagnose. The use of an epinephrine injection is meant to preserve life until emergency medical care can be obtained, so in many cases, a medical professional will be able to attend to these symptoms quickly.
Epinephrine injections typically are administered to patients who are experiencing anaphylactic shock. This is a condition in which an allergy to something such as certain a food, insect bite or medication causes a person to have a potentially life-threatening reaction. Common symptoms of anaphylaxis include breathing problems, a tight throat and a fast heartbeat.
When an individual is experiencing anaphylactic shock, the adrenaline from an epinephrine injection can temporarily restore bodily functions while medical attention is being sought. It can increase blood flow, open airways and reduce overall swelling. The effect of the injection typically lasts 10-20 minutes.
Epinephrine comes in a syringe with a concealed needle. It is stabbed firmly into the leg, often over clothing. When the needle appears outside of the protective tip, the full dose has been administered. Most of the liquid will still remain in the syringe after the injection. It might take more than one application to properly inject the medication.