Epinephrine Pen Needles Too Short For Obese Children

    October 17, 2013

Schools in 29 states in the United States have decided to keep epinephrine pens in stock in case a student were to have a severe allergic reactions. Schools all over the country were unsure if stocking up on the epi-pens was a good idea or not. Many feared that the officials who were in charge of storing the pens and handing them out may become irresponsible, or offer the pens up too soon or when they were not really needed. Most decided it was better to have them onhand in case of an emergency.

With the decision to keep these pens on hands comes a new problem. Many doctors fear that epinphrine pen needles are not long enough to penetrate the skin of children that are obese.

“Epinephrine works best when injected into the muscle,” lead author Dr. Mary Colleen Bhalla said. “When it is injected into the fat layer of the skin it takes longer to reach the blood stream.”

The short needles do not mean that the medication will not be effective, it just means it will take longer for it to start working. When someone is having a severe allergic reaction, time is off the essence. Most allergic reactions cause airways to swell shut and if the epinephrine cannot reduce the swelling fast enough, the person suffering from the attack could suffocate.

One size fits all needles are not a logical solution. A study shows that obese people could best benefit by using a epinephrine pens with longer needles. Thinner people would not be able to use long needles because they would hit the bone.

A 25mm needle as been approved and will be available in late 2013 in the UK, Germany and Sweden. The United States is likely to approve needles of this size as well. School can then consider carrying epinephrine pens in various sizes will be effective to all students.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.