Is It Safe To Use An Expired EpiPen?

Verywell Health reports on a tragic case in 2013 where a college student with a nut allergy accidentally ate them in a cookie. Because his EpiPen was expired, his family did not use it. Additionally, a 911 operator advised them to not use it. Unfortunately the teen did not receive a replacement EpiPen until it was too late and he died from anaphylaxis.

The Mayo Clinic explains that anaphylaxis due to an allergic reaction causes blood pressure to drop and the airway to close off, making it difficult to breath. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says that normally the immune system reacts to invaders by fighting them off. However, sometimes it overreacts and people have an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which can be fatal if not treated quickly.

According to WebMD, anaphylaxis can be treated with an EpiPen containing a medication called epinephrine. People with life-threatening allergies must keep an EpiPen on hand at all times so that an injection can be quickly given to reverse their symptoms.

Would the EpiPen have saved the boy, despite it having passed its expiration date? No one knows for certain. However, it is important to ask whether it could have hurt him to try it.

Is it dangerous to use an expired EpiPen?

EpiPens can be expensive, says GoodRx, so it can be tempting to use them even after they have expired. However, they say the safest thing to do is to replace them once they pass this date. Liquid medications tend to break down faster than solid ones like pills so there is a greater chance that the medication has broken down and will no longer be effective. This could lead you to have a false sense of security that you have taken your medication when, in fact, you didn't have an adequate dose.

If you find yourself with nothing else to use, however, it's not necessarily an unsafe choice to go ahead and use your EpiPen, says Food Allergy Research and Education. An expired EpiPen is better than no treatment at all since it could still have enough medication in it to help save a life.

One important exception, however, would be if the EpiPen's contents have turned cloudy, pink, brown, or it has particles in it. Consumer Reports says this is a clear indicator that the medication is no longer usable.