It’s that time of year again! Camp, beach time, days at the pool… Does weather change how you carry your epinephrine? It should.
Available in auto-injectors, epinephrine is the only medicine available that will slow or stop the life-threatening symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis. Because no one plans for an emergency and allergic reactions can be both variable and unpredictable, patients must carry two epinephrine auto-injectors (EAIs) with them at all times. Yes, even to the pool.
The Ideal Temperature
Epinephrine is temperature sensitive, making it a tricky accessory to carry in the summer and winter months. To remain 100 percent effective, epinephrine must stay at room temperature (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-25 degrees Celsius). Short trips between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit won’t harm the product, according to researchers.
Effects of Heat
Research has shown that prolonged exposure to heat can degrade the strength of epinephrine. And, constant heat resulted in bigger change in epinephrine.
Although short-term exposures outside room temperature conditions are safe – researchers and doctors don’t often define what “short-term” means. A few studies looked at “real world” temperature fluctuations, mentioning that little or no significant change in epinephrine was observed under these circumstances. But, what constitutes “real world” and how many degrees outside of the ideal window (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit) is too high?
It IS, however, worth noting that keeping an EAI in the car is not a good idea as it often puts the auto-injector FAR outside that ideal room temperature and affects the quality and effectiveness of the epinephrine. Temperatures inside parked cars even on a mild can soar well beyond 100 degrees in just a few minutes (read more here).
Effects of Cold
Recent studies have shown that epinephrine doesn’t appear to degrade if accidentally frozen. However, if the medicine is kept below freezing, the epinephrine can freeze despite the fact that the auto-injector may still fire – making it useless in an emergency.
To Each Injector His Own
Each epinephrine auto-injector is constructed slightly differently. Extreme heat or cold may not only affect the epinephrine – it might interfere with the mechanism that delivers this life-saving medicine.
Watch the effects of extreme heat and cold on EpiPens: please see Allergy Superheroes post, Epinephrine Abuse Experiments – it is very enlightening.
Many who carry EAIs point to the color of their epinephrine (shown in a little window on EpiPen brand EAIs) as a way to judge if it’s still potent or viable. According to manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, this method isn’t a sure bet. If your epinephrine is discolored or cloudy, then it is no longer good. However, if it appears clear, this does not necessarily mean it hasn’t degraded or otherwise expired.
Words to Carry By?
Don’t judge an auto-injector by it’s [lack of] color. The best way to ensure your epinephrine auto-injector will work properly and at full strength is to keep it as close to room temperature as you can and within its expiration date if possible.
Do your best and get out there and enjoy the weather whatever it is!