Can EMTs Use Epinephrine for Asthma?

When someone is experiencing an asthma attack, we usually think they need their inhaler. However, in some emergency situations, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may use epinephrine for severe asthma symptoms if the patient’s inhaler is unavailable or if the patient is experiencing anaphylaxis or other life-threatening conditions.

If you are preparing for a career in emergency medical services (EMS), knowing your available medications and when and how to use them is critical. Drugs and medication administration make up a huge portion of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam. This is why we’ve created an in-depth paramedic pharmacology practice test, a Prescription Medications Mastery Course, and an EMS Medications Mastery Course.

As you step into your role as an EMS professional, you need to know how paramedics deal with chest pain, whether or not a Basic EMT can give nitroglycerin, and if and how epinephrine can be used for asthma.

In this post, we’ll focus on epinephrine and how this medication can treat asthma in certain emergency, prehospital settings.

What Is Epinephrine?

You’ve probably heard of an EpiPen‒a small auto-injector filled with epinephrine that is usually administered to stop or slow the effects of a severe allergic reaction. Epinephrine is both a neurotransmitter and hormone, also called adrenaline.

This medication is used to treat severe allergic reactions or sudden asthma attacks. It can also treat other symptoms or reactions, like low blood pressure or a slow heart rate. It works by increasing the heart rate and constricting your blood vessels to help stabilize blood pressure.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition, which means it’s a disease or condition that has long-lasting effects‒usually more than three months. If a patient has asthma, that means their airways become inflamed, narrow, and swell, which makes it difficult for them to breathe. It can also cause the airways to produce extra mucus which further blocks the airways.

This condition typically causes chest pain, difficulty with breathing, coughing, and wheezing. People with asthma tend to notice these symptoms when they experience a flare-up. Flare-ups can occur when the patient is exposed to irritants or substances that trigger allergens.

Maybe you’ve heard the term ‘asthma attack’ before–asthma attacks are sudden worsening of asthma symptoms. This can make breathing extremely difficult, cause a tightening in the chest, and frequently cause wheezing. Asthma attacks should be addressed right away with some form of medical intervention because they can lead to death.

Can Epinephrine Be Used for Asthma?

Epinephrine can be used to treat asthma attacks and other sudden-onset asthma symptoms. When a patient is experiencing an asthma attack, they are experiencing a sudden constriction‒or tightening‒of their bronchial smooth muscles, inflammation, and mucus secretion in their lower airways. The treatment goals are to dry those secretions, reduce the inflammation, and open the constricted airways.

If your patient is not responding to typical treatment options, such as using an inhaler, an intramuscular (an injection into the muscle) epinephrine can result in dilation of the airway and also increase heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygenation to the heart. However, you should only administer epinephrine when the patient is in severe respiratory distress, and other interventions are not resolving their symptoms.

Understanding Medications and Interventions for EMTs

When you’re at the scene of an emergency, you’re juggling a lot of information‒panicked onlookers, a distressed patient, various equipment, and remembering which medications are used for certain situations can easily fly out the window. This is why you need to prepare for more than the NREMT‒you need to prepare for your career.

So, whether you’re an established EMT or a student just beginning your journey in the EMS career, you must take our EMS Medications Mastery Course inside The Video Vault. This exclusive course details more than fifty medication breakdowns so you don’t freeze up when it’s time to save lives. Sign up today!

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