Viewpoint: Severe allergy sufferers should embrace new variation of EpiPen

February brought with it a new choice for people with severe allergies.

A new epinephrine auto-injector, Auvi-Q, hit pharmacies.  Epinephrine is given to people experiencing severe allergic reactions.  Auvi-Q is the first injector that has an audio component that talks through the injection process.

Before the release of Auvi-Q, the EpiPen was the only epinephrine auto-injector available. These devices use a needle to inject the medicine.  Epinephrine is a drug of choice for many abusers, and owners of epinephrine should be wary of the dangers of their medicine falling into the wrong hands.

I am severely allergic to peanuts. I felt the paradigm shift earlier this month when I had not one option for epinephrine but two.

As someone who has circled the dining hall many times before deciding what to order, it is safe to say I wasn’t excited about this impending decision. But, in this case, the choice is clear.

We must embrace the benefits of the Auvi-Q but mindfully maintain our ability to give the injection without guidance. I have had two allergic reactions in my life. One when I was two years old. The other happened this fall.

I found myself alone in my dorm room when I realized the funny feeling in the back of my throat was my body rejecting the traces of peanut butter hidden in the dessert I ate earlier. After a not-so-brief moment of panic, my training kicked in. Locate EpiPen. Take off cap. Inject in thigh at 90 degree angle. Count to 15. Remove EpiPen. Go to hospital.

Three hours and one IV later, I was fine. I was glad I had my EpiPen and knew what to do when disaster struck. I have my mom to thank for that.

My mother is an allergist. Translation: I have been training for an allergic emergency for as long as I can remember. I watched “Alexander, the Elephant who Couldn’t Eat Peanuts,” an educational DVD for children with food allergies, so many times as a kid that I counted the elephant as a close friend. I injected expired EpiPens into more oranges than I ate. I practiced with my EpiPen Training Device for fun.

I did everything I could to be ready for a reaction. And I was still nervous when I had to actually use my EpiPen.

Cue the Auvi-Q.

With the audio aid to walk users through the injection process, uncertain individuals will be reassured that they are using the device correctly. The benefits of the audio element multiply when the injector isn’t the allergic individual, but a passerby. People can become unconscious when suffering from a severe reaction. In this case, someone else injects the epinephrine.

I have corrected some of my friends who thought that the epinephrine needed to be injected into my heart in the event of a reaction. If I become unconscious, I will be thankful for the voice instructing my Good Samaritan how to properly use the device.

That’s all grand, but what if the audio fails? If the Auvi-Q gets wet or the battery dies, the audio element doesn’t work but the injector does. This means the operator must know how to use the device. It seems like this lifesaving skill would be hard to forget, but, over time, we could become too reliant on the instructive audio.

Look at the calculator.

In grade school, basic math was at the forefront of our minds. Then, we gained access to the calculator and discarded basic math to make way for things like derivatives, logarithms and integrals.

And if the calculator dies? We’re left with a pen and paper, scratching our heads.

The same principle can be applied to the Auvi-Q, but instead of a pen and paper we’re holding an auto-injector. Instead of scratching our heads, we’re dying. With these high stakes, it is vital that the allergic community remembers how to give the injection on their own.

The Auvi-Q is a smaller, high-tech version of the EpiPen. It brings with it convenience and ease. Change can be difficult, scary even, but this is one change those of us with severe allergies need to make. We should embrace the technological advances of the Auvi-Q but consciously maintain the knowledge of injection administration, lest we be found unconscious, grasping a wet Auvi-Q.

Kara Blomquist is a freshman journalism major from Dallas. She is a reporter for the Lariat.