What to Do with an Expired Epipen

By Heather Legg

The school nurse has been calling me for weeks and sending home notes because my daughter’s Epipen has expired. I finally took a new one in this morning and then comes the question of what to do with the old expired one. After all, it is a needle so you don’t want to throw it in the trash and have it stick some unsuspecting person.

The nurse said she could dispose of it for me the right way. But before she did, she asked if I had administered one to my daughter. I said no, though I had used the Epipen trainer. I think I once used an expired one on an orange, but wasn’t really sure. So she had the good idea of letting me try it, but, of course, she smiled and said not on her or myself. She guided me through the steps and had me punch it in the side of her trash can. Easy enough, but I still pray I never have to actually use one on a real person.

What was better about doing this with the school nurse was that she gave me a guided lesson. It was a little better than sticking it in the orange because she showed me the red plunger in the middle that showed that the medicine had been injected and pointed out the sound it made, too.

Even if you dispose of your own expired Epipens yourself, it is best to release them before putting them in the trash. You can do stick an orange for practice, or even into the ground outside. You should never dispose of them in the trash unless they have been released. Some may think it is a shame to throw them out when they haven’t been used, but you don’t want to hold onto an expired one in case of emergency as they may be less effective. As my doctor once said, it’s a great $15 investment, even if it’s never used.

I do wonder though if the medicine inside really expires. I’d hate for someone to have to find out by using an expired one and it not working, but does the medicine really go bad in that short of time? I think mine had expired in November and it sat for two months without being replaced. Was I a bad mom because I took so long to replace it? What would have happened if my daughter had had an allergic reaction and had to use and old Epipen? I guess I should have asked about the date on her Benadryl while I was there today!

Anyway, at least practice with your old ones before throwing them in the proper way. And after you have become proficient at it, teach someone else – your child’s grandparents or your child’s teachers. Let the nurse at school keep it and show someone else, she can use it in her staff training.

5 Comments »

Cheryl Bowen:

My husband was told years ago after being stung by a yellow jacket that even though he had a reaction that his blood work determined that he was NOT allergic. He was prescribed two epipens about 13 years ago. Until yesterday they had been stored as they should but never used because he never had another reaction from a sting even though he had been stung a few times over the years.
Yesterday that all changed. He had been out in the yard and walked up to the house not aware that yellow jackets had built a nest in his path. He and my 16 y/o son walked up and were immediately swarmed. My son ran only receiving three stings and was fine but my husband was stung about six to eight times. Within minutes I had him taking two Benadryl but his condition worsened quickly. In a matter of five minutes he was collapsing and passing out. He loss all color in his face and his eyes dilated. As I am trying to not panic, my son grabs the old epipen and as I look back my husband had stopped breathing. I injected the epipen in his thigh and as my son spoke with 911 my husband opened his eyes and began to breathe again! It may not be ‘proper’ to hold an expired epipen but it saved my husbands life yesterday! The entire episode was over a five to eight minute period and was so fast that the paramedics had not reach my home when my husband stopped breathing. I thank God for that ‘old’ epipen!

Cheryl B.

June 20th, 2012 | 6:52 pm
Amber R:

Thank you for sharing Cheryl! My son had a reaction to peas at 6 months old. His first set of epi pens just expired and I was looking up if I should save them as extras “just in case.” Your story made up my mind. I’m glad your husband and son are safe!

August 31st, 2012 | 10:27 am
Olivia P:

The epinephrine (adrenaline) is the active ingredient. It is highly unstable, which is why natural “adrenaline rushes” pass so quickly. It is also why EpiPens contain sodium metabisulfite as a preservative.

How much is your loved one’s life worth, that you would skimp out on getting a fresh one every year? It should last a year, and if the expiration date is sooner than that, ask the pharmacy for a fresher stock.

September 18th, 2012 | 6:22 pm

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November 18th, 2014 | 6:34 pm
Heather:

$15 investment?! Ours cost us $200
The one time we did have to use ours, the one we had was a few months expired. It still did the job. Of course I think you should try to keep them current, but when you are paying $200 for them, I’m okay with letting a couple of months go by, if they have been kept in temp. controlled environments.

December 8th, 2014 | 11:19 am
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