April 4th, 2011
08:40 AM ET

Can I store an allergy auto-injector in my car?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Samantha of Indiana:

My daughter has a severe food allergy. I keep epinephrine with me at all times and have left injectors in her day care classroom but am worried about not having one if she needs it. Can I keep one in the car for emergencies?

Expert answer:

Thanks for your question. Allergic reactions can be very serious, so I'm glad you are making every effort to be prepared. An epinephrine auto-injector (which comes by brand names such as EpiPen or TwinJect) can reverse the effects of severe allergies, most notably anaphylaxis, a rapidly progressing and life-threatening allergic reaction involving the whole body. Symptoms may include hives, swelling of the face, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and shock.

Because anaphylaxis can occur quickly and without warning, it is ideal to keep the medicine with the child whenever possible. For young children, make sure adult caregivers carry epinephrine, and keep injectors at home and school as well.

As with any medication, you will want to check with the manufacturer's product information for details about proper storage. In general, epinephrine auto-injectors should be stored at room temperature (about 77 F or 25 C and between 59 and 86 F, or 15 and 30 C) away from light and replaced when they reach their marked expiration date or become cloudy or discolored (the solution is normally clear and colorless). Extremes in temperature - either too hot or too cold - may cause the unit to malfunction or lose effectiveness.

There are many products available for easier transport of epinephrine injectors including specially made insulated pouches with a key ring or belt strap that can be moved from person to person or purse to diaper bag, etc. It's also a good idea to have your child wear a medical alert bracelet listing her allergy(ies), contact information and procedures that should be followed in case of an emergency.

I encourage our readers to share their tips for dealing with severe allergies and epinephrine. If you have further questions, be sure to consult with your pediatrician, allergist and/or pharmacist. Good luck!

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Stefan

    The article doesn't even answer the question. I think the main problem with storing it in a car would be the temperature extremes.

    April 4, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BirdmomII

      Stefan, read the article again. 3rd paragraph says epi meds should be stored at room temperature... if you're licensed to drive a car, you should certainly understand that the car is NO place for med storage. It gets either too cold, or way too hot! When all else fails, read the directions in the flyer!

      April 4, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse |
    • B=Dog

      Allergies in this country are out of control, and the sad thing is we did it to ourselves by excluding certain foods from our babies diets (Peanut butter, eggs, honey etc...) Think I'm wrong? Take a look at 'plumpynut' and how it's being used to feed starving children in Africa and Ethiopia, out of millions and millions of packages given out and used do you know how many reports of peanut allergies there were?? FOUR. Four cases of peanut allergies out of millions of kids in 2 countries. Why?? because they feed their kids everything.

      April 4, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • LP845

      Hey B=Dog,

      Sorry, but the answer is not easy. Two of my three children have severe peanut allergies, allergies to the environment and asthma. The other child has absolutely no allergies and no medical issues whatsoever. I ate the same foods during all three pregnancies. I ate healthy. Consumed lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy meats. I ate a variety of foods. I did not exclude peanut butter from my diet.

      April 5, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse |
  2. Sid

    @ Stefan

    Is it me or did you not read the article? There's a paragraph about storing temperatures and a following paragraph on different products to carry injectors.

    April 4, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stefan

      Yes, the article mentions the temperatures. The author doesn't mention any connection to the car, however, leaving that to the reader to infer. Perhaps I could have worded my original post better.

      April 4, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
  3. BIHT

    This article does answer her question, look at the packaging. I'd think due to liability issues only your doctor can answer this with a yes or no. My son needs an epi-pen and I carry it in my purse at all times and I make sure whoever has him carries one too. I keep his benadryl and epi in a zip-lock bag, but when he gets older I'll buy a nicer bag for him to carry. We keep written instructions about when to administer benadryl and when to give an epi injection in the bag. He has a medical alert bracelet that lists his allergies and emergency contacts. When we're in larger crowds (like family reunions etc) where people may be giving him food, he has a shirt that reads don't feed me. These can be bought on-line for cheap but we just made ours.

    April 4, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Dan

    A study by automobile manufacturers found that the most temperature stable location in a vehicle is under the car seat. A package, with a good zipper or seal to stay clean, placed under a car seat will remain relatively cool in most climates. No location in a vehicle will protect the medicine from freezing though. Sorry. I, personally, would reserve the car for a 2nd backup pen not the first line of defense and check it often for clouding as the article suggests.

    April 4, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Glockster20

    I have severe allergies, I had requested my doc to provide me a script for 2 pens. I keep one in a carry bag as I call it with me at all times with benedryl and my inhaler. This bag goes everywhere with me. It even has two loops on it to carry on my belt. All the guys who I work with even know how to use the epi and reload it if needed. Then I have a set in two locations in the house, one being in the kitchen in the drawer next to the frigde and the other in my bathroom (My carry bag when I am home). I live in the interior of Alaska where the temps here are extremely cold so I never leave it in the car. Even in the summer where the temps outside get in the 90s. I would ask about a second pen from your provider. I know my insurance covers a 100 perent of the cost on them. If you carry a purse put it in there, or make sure you remember it before you go anywhere. My bag even says anaphylaxis kit on it!

    April 4, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Allergic

    I always keep an epipen with me, everywhere I go. I keep one in my backpack and one in purse, that way I have it no matter what bag I take with me. If you have a child with a severe allergy, you should keep one at home, one at his/her school, one in your bag at all times (whether s/he's with you or not), and an extra one to pass along to anyone taking the child out – a grandparent, babysitter, play date parent, etc -this way, anywhere your child goes, s/he will be covered. If you're child is already 3 or older, he or she is already old enough to start carrrying it around by his/herself (keep a backup in the aditional places, just in case s/he forgets!). I have had life threatening allergies since I was 4 as well as asthma and I spent most of my childhood carrying around a fanny pack with my epipen and inhalers (they also make little waist pouches now just for epipens!). If you put this on your child's waist when he/she gets dressed in the morning, it will stay with him or her all day. If she/he wants to take it off, teach her that she has to inform the adult in charge that s/he is taking it off and where it is located. The more your child is educated about his or her allergies, and the more the c hidl's caregivers are ,the safer you'll all feel.

    April 4, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Beth

    Don't ever leave an epi-pen in the car. Read the labels on all of your child's medications. I keep one in my car, one in my purse (or on my person, if I don't take my purse along), and one in my desk at work. Everyone around me knows where they are and how to use them. Those epi-pens come with trainers for a reason. No one around your child wants to be caught unaware if he needs an injection. Take 2 minutes and show them how to use the pen. It could save his life.

    April 4, 2011 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Huh?

      Uh... you said to not keep it in the car, but you then tell us that YOU keep it in the car? Inconsistent much?

      April 4, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse |
  8. Liz

    My EpiPen specifically says to not store in a car or in the fridge. Any extreme temps are dangerous and can cause the chemical to become ineffective. I carry mine in my purse at all times and have another in a kitchen drawer. My loved ones all know where they can find them if I am unable to do so myself.

    April 4, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bebe

    Store the epi in the child's backpack or diaper bag. That's where my son's is.

    April 4, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Michelle

    I remember worrying about this when my daughter was first diagnosed with several food allergies. I was concerned that we would run out quickly to the store and forget the diaper bag, my purse, etc. In the end, we put a small backpack that we hang by our door that is required to go with us anytime we leave with our daughter. We also have epi-pens in all of the other important places (school, home, my purse, etc.), but a separate bag ensures that there is an epi-pen in the car regardless of who is with her at the time (our nanny, my husband, etc.). We also keep other new "'fun" things in the bag to keep her occupied in the car (a game, new music cd, etc.), so that she will also feel motivated to remind us to grab the bag if we are in a rush. Now that she is older (3), she will look for that bag once we get into the car (not for the epi-pen, but for something fun), which also serves as a pack-up reminder. 🙂 I hope this is helpful! I know it can be overwhelming, so keep asking questions!

    April 4, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bubba

    They used to make a 'credit-card' injector that would fit in your wallet. My nephew solved the problem by taking charge of it himself ("I'LL carry the epi-pen MYSELF!") and so there was always one around if he needed it.

    April 4, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. LD1967

    Everyone is always talking about food allergies and those w/o allergies just ASSUME that people carry epi-pens just for that reason. WELL – I carry four of them with me everywhere I go and have for the past 25 years. The reason – I am deathly allergic to most stinging insects. I am posting this to make people aware that there are reasons other than food allergies that cause people to carry epi-pens.

    I never go on a outing w/o first making sure everyone I am with is aware of where they are and HOW to properly use them.

    April 4, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Gigi

    I agree with others that the response answers the question. I live in AZ and it can get HOT – especially in a car and at any time of the year. For the same reason, I would never ever order Epi-Pens from a mail order pharmacy – metal mailboxes, mail and delivery trucks, etc...can get to be over 200 degrees. Lucky to have good insurance, so I have a bunch for my six year old. One twinjet for my purse, one for the house, one for her dad, one for my mom, one for the mother in law, one for school, one for aftercare, one for camp, etc....you get the picture. Essentially, anywhere she will be consistently, there is an Epi-pen. Have I forgotten one – yes. Did I turn around to go home and get it – yes. Was it inconvenient – yes. However, with certain allergies, you just can't afford to play around. That being said, while it seems convenient to have one in the car, I just can't afford to have one fail. I imagine that if you need to carry one around, neither can you.

    April 5, 2011 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. renee

    What ever happened to those BENEDRYL QUICK DISSOLVE STRIPS? Those were a perfect to put in my son's wallet....he hates to carry the bulky tablets as well as an epipen. Those really were ideal as a first line of defense.

    April 5, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maegan

      Benadryl stopped making them but Triaminic now make the same thing called "Triaminic thin strips, Allergy" and the ingredient is the same drug and amount as the benadryl strips. I agree I have these in my wallet for my daughter at all times. Just make sure the diphenhydramine 12.5mg is the only ingredient. They make a few different types, allergy, cough and cold etc.

      April 5, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
  15. AllerDine.com

    Storage of an auto-injector in your car, as mentioned by many can compromise the effectiveness of the medication. Even at kids summer camp, injectors should be checked regularly, as kids are running around in the summer heat with their auto-injectors near by or in a pouch that they wear. The issue with leaving your life-saving medication in your car is also a much broader discussion about risk and control. My kids have severe food allergies, but I am able to make the rules...No Epipen, no food. As we get older, into our teens and as adults, we move away from our parents rules. Unfortunately, I see many adults with severe allergies who don't carry the necessary medication to save their own life. The Auto-injector is NOT that big. Don't be another sad story that we read about on the wire. Don't be too brave or too embarrassed to carry your medication with you. Be confident with your choice to live and that this medication will save you. You only get one chance on this planet...make it count.

    April 5, 2011 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Curmodgeon

    Sorry folks, but some of you gave the good doctor a pass. The question was clearly stated and deserved a no less clearly stated answer within the first paragraph. Once the answer was presented, then the good doctor is free to expand upon the subject of anti-allergy medications, precautions in storage and use as well as any other thing he wished to discuss.

    Q: Is the sky blue?
    A: All colors are compose of three primary colors although light is really made up of several wavelengths. You can see these in a rainbow, because water droplets in the air act as prisms and yadda yadda yadda.....

    April 5, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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  20. Angela Castro

    One day a friend who works with fire departments and rescue told us to make sure the Epipens where store in carriers with the universal medical id so it looks like it should, an emergency kit. Since then my son carries his inside an epibelt called waistpal and we use a black case when giving an extra set to his coaches and school nurse.

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