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Adrenaline syringes: community perspective
  1. T WOLFF,
  2. C RUMNEY, Birmingham Specialist Community Trust
  1. Child and Family Centre, Maas Road
  2. Birmingham B3I 2PR, UK
  3. toni{at}

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Editor,—We read with interest the paper by Unsworth1 regarding the over prescribing of adrenaline syringes. We are sure we are not the only community paediatric team who have similar concerns, although perhaps from a different perspective. Dr Unsworth writes of the safety issues. We have more experience of the practical problems.

Thanks to the availability of prompt training for school staff by community personnel, it is now rare for a child to actually be excluded from school because they have an adrenaline injection device. However, they may very well be excluded from other activities such as guide camp or trips abroad.

There is also the increasing problem of young people with adrenaline injection devices moving on to college or work places. Who should train staff there?

Other problems with adrenaline injection devices in our local community include two being lost on the bus, and one being accidentally fired into the interphalangeal joint of a child's thumb with the needle becoming bent like a fish hook.

There is also the issue of keeping them in date. Parents often forget to renew them, particularly those kept in school. Whilst it does not need to be kept in a refrigerator, adrenaline does deteriorate in warm conditions, and injection devices should be checked to make sure the adrenaline inside remains clear and colourless.

Often, an adrenaline injection device has been prescribed with no demonstration to the child or family on how to give it, nor when to give it. Surely antihistamine should also be prescribed in every case? In most children, it is the only medication, which is going to be needed. Families also need clear instructions on when to call an ambulance. They could easily make the mistake of trying to take a deteriorating child to hospital in their own car, instead of calling a paramedic ambulance, or even assume that they do not need to go to hospital at all if they have given adrenaline. As Dr Unsworth points out, the adrenaline injection does not always save the child's life.

We would suggest that when an adrenaline injection device is prescribed it must be demonstrated to both the parent and child (if the child is old enough). A dummy pen is helpful for this. Demonstration should be repeated with each repeat prescription of the device. The child and their family should always have a written management protocol, including instructions on expected symptoms, when to give antihistamine, when to call an ambulance, and when to give adrenaline. Such a protocol can then be passed rapidly to the community paediatric team to support the prompt training of school staff.

It is worth remembering that clinical responsibility for the safe administration of a drug rests with the prescriber.