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EpiPen Jr. vs. EpiPen

Posted 6/29/2018 by UHBlog

Food allergies are soaring among children, which can lead to life-threatening allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis. Talk to us about the newest innovations and technologies available to manage and treat allergies in infants and children.

Doctor in surgery examining young girl

You may not associate food allergies with infants and toddlers, but they're on the increase. In fact, life-threatening allergic reactions that required emergency department visits increased by nearly 130 percent among children 4 years old and younger between 2005 and 2014.

Currently, there is a growing movement, supported by evidence, to introduce allergenic foods to children at younger and younger ages, but it doesn't always reduce their risks. Some of them will have severe allergic reactions and subsequent anaphylatic shock. That's why traditional epinephrine devices – or EpiPens – are kept on hand by parents and caregivers to give to children with food allergies.

However, these EpiPens weren't designed with the littlest of kids in mind – those weighing 33 pounds (15 kilograms) or less.

That’s changing, according to pediatric infectious diseases specialist Claudia Hoyen, MD, who is the director of Pediatric Innovation at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

Frustrated that there wasn't an infant-sized pen with appropriate dosing and needle size to accommodate the very small size and weight of infants who are plagued with serious allergies, pediatric allergists and researchers from the UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and a medical device developer from Greater Cleveland designed a better, safer option. The product has been licensed to the developer, who has since developed a prototype to test.

“The needle on the infant-sized device is designed to prevent it from going too deep and not go to the muscle as intended,” Dr. Hoyen says. “The device looks similar to the Staple's ‘Easy button’ with a small, flat surface that curves around the infant’s leg. It's topped with a vertical cylinder that holds the needle and the appropriate dose of epinephrine. When you push the button, a needle deploys that's the right length for an infant.”

The amount of medication has also been reduced in the newer device to a dose appropriate for the weight of younger children.

“This new venture came about as a result of University Hospitals pediatric allergists who listened to and acted upon the frustrations they heard their patients' families express,” Dr. Hoyen says. “We're doing a lot of work with start-up companies to create solutions to problems we see. These entrepreneurial efforts are helping to potentially change the way we administer care to our patients.”

Although the infant-sized EpiPen isn't available yet, it's important to work with your child's pediatrician if you suspect you child has an allergy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are one of the most common chronic diseases, especially among children and can develop over time based on your child's exposure to a foreign substance or allergen.

Claudia Hoyen, MD is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, director of Pediatric Innovation and medical director, Pediatric Infection Control at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Hoyen or any other doctor online.

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