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Parents worried about epipen availability

All available epipens in Abu Dhabi expire in October, prompting concerns among parents who have children with food allergies

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Shortage of a life-saving injection in the capital has had parents especially concerned over the last few weeks.

These injections, known as epipens, are used to reverse the effects of severe, and potentially fatal, allergic reactions, but parents say that pharmacies currently do not have any stocks of epipens that can be used beyond October 2017.

“My three-year-old daughter has a nut allergy, and an allergic reaction can be fatal if an epipen is not at hand. So I always keep one with me, and leave one at my daughter’s school. But I have not been able to find any that I can use beyond October,” Freya Jaffar, a British homemaker and founder of popular Facebook group Abu Dhabi Q&A, told Gulf News.

“Allergic reactions are always a concern, especially as staff at many food outlets are simply not aware of using ingredients that customers are allergic to. In such a situation, it becomes even more worrisome when epipens cannot be found,” Jaffar said.

Epipens contain epinephrine, a hormone that helps counter the drop in blood pressure that occurs during severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylactic shock. The most common anaphylactic reactions are to foods, insect bites and medications, and they lead to breathing difficulties, swelling of the mouth and tongue, skin rashes, vomiting and sneezing. Without the immediate administration of an epinephrine shot, these reactions can be deadly.

While the rate of food allergies in the UAE is believed to be about six to eight per cent, experts say that these allergies are on the rise. They are most concerning among children, as they may unknowingly eat something that leaves them at risk of an allergic reaction. Experts therefore advise that children or their guardians carry an epipen with them at all times.

Jaffar said that she had checked, in vain, at least a dozen pharmacies in search of epipens that could be used after October 2017. A posting on the Facebook group she runs had concerned comments from dozens of other residents who were also looking for epipens with a shelf life beyond October.

Meanwhile, staff at two prominent pharmacies in the capital said their current stocks of epipens expire in October.

Abu Dhabi resident Tim Baumgarten, a 28-year-old civil engineer, said he purchased an epipen in the US.

“I have already had to use two epipens in a span of two years, both times because restaurant staff mistakenly used ingredients to which I was allergic. The current situation has me worried, and I hope I will be able to find epipens when I need to restock,” he said.

When contacted, Dr Amin Al Ameeri, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News that a new shipment with a later expiry date is on its way.

“The agent has confirmed that a new shipment is on the way. The import permit has been received, and [we will know] the exact date of arrival to pharmacies at the beginning of next week,” the official said.

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