It’s always a relief to know that you have a back-up plan in case of an emergency. And for many food allergy parents, calling for an ambulance is the ultimate back-up plan. Emergency personnel are simply the go-to experts for a crisis, saving people’s lives left and right. Right?
But among all the life-saving equipment packed into an ambulance, epinephrine may be missing from some. The reasons come down to cost and training, but given the fact that epinephrine is the only way to stop deadly anaphylaxis in its tracks and that auto injectors are designed to be used by people with little to no training, those reasons simply don’t hold water.
Not All Ambulances Are Required to Carry Epinephrine
To understand why this discrepancy in stocking epinephrine on ambulances even exists, there are a few things to know.
First, there are two types of ambulances, called Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support. There is different equipment on each one.
Second, there is a difference in the level of training the personnel on each ambulance has received. Paramedics have more training than Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and usually ride on the Advanced ambulances. EMTs man the Basic ambulances.
Finally, local governing bodies make the decisions about which ambulances carry epinephrine and who is allowed to administer it. This means that the rules might change based on where you are at any given time.
Some Districts Struggle With the Price of Epinephrine Auto Injectors
With the recent price increase of the auto-injector brand EpiPen, some districts looking to cut costs no longer carried the injectors or switched to a syringe method of administration. This could affect who is now allowed to administer the injection. Some districts only allow EMTs to administer epinephrine from an auto-injector, but not from a syringe.
Additionally, epinephrine has an expiration date, and budget-conscious districts have been concerned about essentially throwing away money if anaphylaxis emergencies are rare.
However, carrying unexpired epinephrine on ambulances is an expense that pays dividends when it saves a life.
What Can You Do?
911 dispatchers are trained to send the most appropriate responders for each situation. Still, if you state that your emergency is anaphylaxis, reiterate that you need an ambulance that carries epinephrine.
You may also find peace of mind by calling your local fire department’s non-emergency number and asking about local policies regarding epinephrine storage and administration. You may live in an area that only has Advanced ambulances, all of which are stocked with epinephrine. Or, you may live in an area with convoluted rules, in which case it never hurts to contact the policy makers and express your concern over the handling of epinephrine.
Keeping your own auto-injectors on hand and up-to-date is always an excellent plan, but even then, things can go wrong. An emergency vehicle that is not actually equipped to handle an emergency does no one any good. It’s recommended that food allergy parents stay informed on the policies affecting local ambulances and epinephrine.