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Docs Need More Training on Adrenaline Shots

Most Doctors, Patients Don't Know How or When to Give Adrenaline Shots for Severe Allergic Reaction

WebMD Health News

Dec. 4, 2003 -- If you're susceptible to severe, life-threatening allergies, you may want to brush up on your treatment skills. When put to the test, some British researchers discovered that most patients and doctors don't know how or when to use injectable adrenaline shots in response to a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.

With the rise in incidence of a potentially fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis in the U.K., the news is alarming. This is because it is common practice to prescribe emergency packs, which include preloaded adrenaline shots, to prevent the severe symptoms.

Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, and sometimes fatal allergic reaction that involves the whole body. Many things can trigger anaphylaxis, including:

Out of 50 doctors surveyed, only one general practitioner knew how to use injectable adrenaline, researchers say. That doctor happened to have a personal history of anaphylaxis.

Among the 60 patients (or their parents) in the study who had been prescribed injectable adrenaline and asked about their understanding of when and how the shots should be used, only two of the 14 adults and 16 of the 46 children knew when and how to use them. That translates to less than one-third of patients or parents having adequate knowledge about using the device.

The findings are published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

With only one doctor in the study knowing how to accurately use the injections, it is no surprise that none of the general practitioners surveyed personally showed patients how or when to use the shots. In addition, more than half (26) said they would not advise patients to go to the hospital after taking adrenaline for allergic reaction. Researchers say this goes against the grain of recommended practice.

Study author Grant Hayman and colleagues note that the doctors said a nurse usually trained patients and/or their parents on how to use adrenaline shots. But they add this training apparently hasn't given patients the knowledge they need.

With this being the case, researchers strongly recommend doctors take a more active role to personally train patients on how to administer adrenaline injections.

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