By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Epipens are the go-to solution when a child has a severe allergic reaction. But doctors say this new research is troubling that some patients are not using them.

“My main allergies are peanuts, nuts, avocado and cherries–those are my like deathly allergies,” said 18 year old Maya Alony who has life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis and she has had to inject herself.

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“I was like 15, so I was really scared,” she recalled.

Many kids prescribed epinephrine do not get the medication as soon as they need it.

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A new study looked at about 400 children who went to the er or urgent care for anaphylaxis.

Less than half had been given epinephrine before they arrived even though many had a history of anaphylaxis.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology spokesperson, said, “We want to prevent anaphylaxis from escalating. Epinephrine auto injectors are the drug of choice. Antihistamines can be used however, they are not the drug of choice and they are not reliable to prevent anaphylaxis.”

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One-third of patients prescribed epinephrine in the study did not have their injectors when they had their allergic reaction.

“Patients that did not use it before the urgent care visit when it was necessary were more likely to be admitted or stay in the emergency room,” Dr. Bassett said.

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Alony had a severe reaction once with her medication available. Since then, she does not take a chance.

“Ever since that happened, I have kept it in my bag,” she said. “It’s life or death.”

Researchers say there could be a number of reasons for the limited use of epinephrine, including delayed recognition of symptoms, as well as people not understanding the treatment.

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Experts say it’s important that families develop an action so everyone knows exactly what do to in the event of a severe allergic reaction. That could be a life saver.

Stephanie Stahl