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What are Drug Allergies?

Drug allergies are an abnormal reaction to a medication by your immune system.  Not all symptoms from medications are due to allergy.  All medications can have side effects which affect a small percentage of patients taking the drug.  Some of these can be labeled intolerances while others are an exaggerated effect of what the medication is intended to do.  Do you take prescription or over-the-counter medications?  If so, ask yourself if you have any added or new symptoms after taking the medication.    Prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications can create drug allergies in some people.

What are the Symptoms of a Drug Allergy?

Many people don’t know they have an allergy to a drug until they’ve taken the medication and experienced some type of symptom. In some situations, these medications can cause serious and even life-threatening complications. In other cases, the symptoms are less obvious.  Some common symptoms of a drug allergy include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Hives
  • Itching, if rash is present
  • Shortness of breath, if other allergic symptoms are also present
  • Swelling

In some situations, medications can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.  When this happens, it can spread very quickly to all systems of your body.  Some signs include:

  • Constriction in the throat
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Nausea or cramping
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid and weak pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

If you experience any of these symptoms, immediate medical care is often advisable.  Please contact Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

How Can You Learn About Potential Allergies?

Some people are more prone to allergies than others.  If you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy previously, it may be important to be tested for others.  Screening and testing can be considered for those who have:

  • A history of food allergies or hay fever.
  • Reactions to other medications.
  • If your doctor suspects you have drug allergies.

Advice on how to proceed is determined by a careful history, exam, and if appropriate, testing.

Investigating Drug Allergies

Drug allergy skin testing is very accurate and reliable for the penicillin family of medications.  Skin testing or blood allergy testing may be helpful for selected, but not all, medications.  For some medications, there are no reliable tests.  Avoidance may be required.  In certain circumstances, it may be helpful for an allergist to perform a drug challenge using a small quantity of the same or similar medication in a monitored setting.  If a person is currently ill and they are allergic to the only or best medication that will treat their problem, rapid desensitization to that medication may be an option, depending on the type of reaction that they had previously.

By working with the certified allergists at Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center, you’ll get frank, clear information about any potential drug allergy you have as well as what your options may be for avoiding risks.  Additionally, you may qualify for desensitization.  It’s important to schedule a consultation with our team as soon as possible to discuss the possible options available in your case.

If you are currently ill and the best medication available is one to which you are allergic, rapid desensitization to that medication may be an option depending upon the type of medication.

In some situations, medications can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.  When this happens, it can spread very quickly to all areas of your body.

Some signs include:

  • Constriction in the throat
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Nausea or cramping
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid and weak pulse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

If you experience any of these symptoms, immediate medical care is needed, at a physician’s office or urgent care/ER facility after calling 911.

Please contact Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center as soon as possible to schedule an appointment to evaluate this problem.