Many people with severe food allergies don’t use their EpiPens.

A new study found only 40 per cent of patients having an anaphylactic reaction used it before going to hospital – even if they are struggling to breathe.

“The main problem for parents is the fear of hurting their child [and] making the reaction worse not using it appropriately,” explained Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, an allergist and immunologist at the MUHC.

As a result, doctors are trying to get the message out that the EpiPen is not dangerous.

“When a reaction progresses, or when there is an involvement of a few organ systems – so for example hives, problems breathing, abdominal pain, or you feel uncomfortable and it crosses your mind that your child might need an Epipen – just use it,” Ben Shoshan said. “Better be safe than sorry.”

There have been rare cases of seniors dying from taking Epinephrine, but they were given it intravenously – the doses in an EpiPen are safe, Ben-Shoshan says.

The problem, he says, is when people don’t give a high enough dose.

Generally speaking, however, Ben-Shoshan says people need to be properly informed about EpiPens.

“The side effects are rare, but the benefits are immense. You are saving a child’s life if you use it early enough,” he added.