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EpiPen Reversed a Life-Threatening Reaction to Blood Pressure Medicine

Angioedema, life-threatening swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat in reaction to an ACE inhibitor blood pressure pill, is reversible with EpiPen.

Q. You have written about the EpiPen for treating allergic reactions, especially to bee stings. I just spent 8 hours in an emergency room with an allergic reaction to lisinopril, the prescribed blood pressure medication I have been taking for over two years.

It took an EpiPen to stop the swelling of my lips, face, nasal passages and throat. I was told that this blood pressure drug can cause allergic reactions unexpectedly, even in people who have taken it for years. Please let your readers know that the EpiPen is good for much more than allergic reactions to bee stings. It saved my life.

Dangerous ACE Inhibitor Reaction Reversed by EpiPen:

A. ACE inhibitor blood pressure drugs like enalapril, lisinopril and ramipril can trigger life-threatening swelling, even after years of safe use. In such instances epinephrine (EpiPen) can reverse the reaction. You are right, epinephrine can be a life-saver for a variety of allergic emergencies.

Now that you know you may react to an ACE inhibitor in this dangerous way, you might discuss alternatives with your physician. Many other types of blood pressure medicine do not trigger this type of swelling, which is called angioedema. Although it affects the throat and airways most dramatically, it can also affect the intestinal tract, causing obstruction and severe pain.

EpiPen Can Be Life-Saving for Other Allergic Reactions:

As you mentioned, the most common use of EpiPen is to treat a frightening reaction to insect stings, particularly bee or wasp stings. Here is one reader’s account:

Q. Someone wrote to you about a bad reaction to wasps. The same thing happened to me after I was stung by yellow jackets. Please warn this person (or anyone who is allergic to stings) to consult a physician about getting an EpiPen Auto-Injector. This device is a lifesaver!

A. When someone is severely allergic to insect venom, food, latex or certain medications, anaphylactic shock can kill. Thanks for reminding us that epinephrine is indeed a lifesaver in such situations.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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