Adrenaline auto-injectors: Avoiding accidental thumb and finger injections

Adrenaline auto-injectors: Avoiding accidental thumb and finger injections

  • 31 July 2023
  • News
  • Research

Anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate emergency treatment. The first-line treatment for anaphylaxis is an injection of adrenaline.  

Adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs) allow people to self-administer adrenaline in an anaphylaxis emergency safely and effectively. However, recent research has highlighted how often people accidentally inject themselves in the thumb or finger instead of the correct site, which is the upper, outer thigh.  

The study, which used data collected in France, recorded 42 cases of problems with using AAIs. 79% of them were accidental injections in the finger, hand, or thigh.  

The statistics from this study are an important reminder for everyone who carries AAIs. Accidental injections, though relatively rare, can be painful and can sometimes lead to complications. It’s essential to handle AAIs with care and follow the instructions carefully when using. 

The key findings from the study were: 

Accidental Injections: Most of these accidents happened when the person was not having an allergic reaction. Mishandling the AAI, when storing or checking its expiry date, was the most common reason for the accidental injections. 

Who Is at Risk: The study found that accidental injections affected both adults and children. Children, especially those under six years old, were at risk of accidental injections when they “played” with the AAI. 

Severity of issues: Most accidental thumb or finger injections only caused pain and skin inflammation at the site of the injection. The study did find 3 cases where anaphylaxis symptoms worsened because the injections weren’t given properly, and hospitalisation was needed in two of the cases. 

Treatment: Different treatments were used to help symptoms after accidental injections in fingers or thumbs. These included applying heat and massage, using numbing creams like lidocaine or phentolamine, or a paste with nitro-glycerine to open up blood vessels.  

At Anaphylaxis UK, we understand the importance of using your AAI correctly to prevent painful accidents and ensure that treatment is effective during an anaphylaxis emergency.  

There are currently two adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs) available on prescription in the UK. (Emerade brand has been recalled and is not currently available) 

The manufacturers offer free trainer devices so you can practise using your AAI.  

We offer our comprehensive AllergyWise training courses that cover the correct use of adrenaline auto-injectors. Our courses provide valuable information on how to handle AAIs safely and make sure that you are prepared in case of an emergency. Awareness and education are key in preventing accidental injections.  

If you or someone you know carries an adrenaline auto-injector, make sure to get evidence-based information and training from Anaphylaxis UK’s website or our Talking with the experts podcast series