- Drug Allergy (Medication Allergy) Center
- 10 Common Allergy Triggers Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Quiz on Allergies
- Nasal Allergy Relief Products Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Drug Allergy - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Drug Allergy - Preparedness
- Patient Comments: Drug Allergy - Drug Names
- Find a local Asthma & Allergy Specialist in your town
- Drug allergy definition
- What are the signs and symptoms of an allergy to drug (medication) allergy?
- To what types of drugs are people most allergic?
- Is there a test for drug (medication) allergies?
- What is the treatment for a drug (medication) allergy?
- What should I do if I have an allergic reaction to a drug?
Drug allergy definition
Allergic reactions are the hyper-immune response of our immune system to foreign (antigenic) substances. When certain foreign substances are introduced to the body, the immune system is triggered. (The immune system protects us from substances that may harm the body.) A hyper-immune response may result in allergic reaction symptoms. Medications are foreign substances and some of their components may trigger the immune systems of some people.
What are the signs and symptoms of an allergy to drug (medication) allergy?
Drug allergic reactions are similar to allergic reactions resulting from food and other substances that we ingest. A person's genetic make-up helps determine what they are allergic to, and the severity of their allergies. Allergic reactions, including drug allergy reactions, can be mild, moderate or even deadly.
More serious reactions involve swelling of lips, tongue that can cause difficulty breathing (anaphylaxis) that can lead to death.
Other signs and symptoms of drug allergies include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Low blood pressure
Drug allergies may occur at any time during drug treatment. This means that the allergic reaction may occur after the first exposure to the drug or when the drug is taken again in the future.
To what types of drugs are people most allergic?
Any drug or a component in a drug can cause an allergic reaction.
Drugs that most commonly cause allergic reactions include:
Other drugs that may cause an allergic reaction include:
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Drugs that suppress the immune system such as rituximab (Rituxan) and abatacept (Orencia)
- HIV medications
Sometimes the allergic symptoms are caused by a component or substances used for packaging or administering the drug that triggers the allergy. Components of drugs that commonly cause allergies include:
- Egg proteins
- Latex (in the packaging of drugs)
Is there a test for drug (medication) allergies?
Most times drug allergies are identified based on the time proximity of the reaction to administration of the drug and patient history. If the drug is stopped and the symptoms also stop; then the logical conclusion is that the drug caused the allergic reaction. Skin testing can also be used to verify that the drug is causing the allergy. If it is a drug that the patient needs and there are no other alternatives, careful skin testing can be done to determine if the person is truly allergic to the drug.
What is the treatment for a drug (medication) allergy?
The first step is to stop the drug you suspect is causing the signs and symptoms.
- For skin reactions such as rashes and itching antihistamine creams (for example Benadryl) or steroid creams (for example, hydrocortisone) are used. Oral antihistamines and steroids are used for more bothersome symptoms.
- Antihistamines injections and or steroids are given for serious allergic reactions.
- For life threatening anaphylactic reactions which involve difficulty breathing, epinephrine is given usually intramuscularly.
In situations where a drug is needed and there are no alternatives an allergist can attempt to desensitize the individual by gradually giving very small amounts of the drug and increasing the amount over a time.
What should I do if I have an allergic reaction to a drug?
Contact your doctor if you develop a rash, itching, hives or any symptom related to drug allergy. If your lip or tongue swells or if you have shortness of breath go the emergency room immediately. Do not drive yourself, call 911.
Quick GuideBad Bugs: Identify Bug Bites From Mosquitos, Spiders and More
Daily Health News
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Allergy and Asthma Newsletter
Pichler, W.J., MD. "Drug allergy: Classification and clinical features." UpToDate. Updated: Jun 23, 2014.
Drug Allergy - Symptoms
What signs and symptoms did you have with an allergic reaction to a drug or medication?Post View 3 Comments
Drug Allergy - Experience
Please share your experience with a drug or medication allergy.Post
Drug Allergy - Treatment
What kinds of treatment, including medications, did you receive for your drug allergy?Post
Drug Allergy - Preparedness
If you have a known drug allergy, how are you prepared to handle an emergency or possible exposure?Post View 1 Comment
Drug Allergy - Drug Names
What drug(s) are you allergic to, and what happens when you take this/these drugs?Post View 4 Comments
Top Drug Allergies Related Articles
Know Your Allergy TriggersAllergies are an overreaction of the immune system where the body's defenses react to substances such as pollen, food and more. Learn about common allergy triggers and how you can avoid an allergy attack.
AllergyAn allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Anal itching is the irritation of the skin at the exit of the rectum, known as the anus, accompanied by the desire to scratch. Causes include everything from irritating foods we eat, to certain diseases, and infections. Treatment options include medicine including, local anesthetics, for example, lidocaine (Xylocaine), pramoxine (Fleet Pain-Relief), and benzocaine (Lanacane Maximum Strength), vasoconstrictors, for example, phenylephrine 0.25% (Medicone Suppository, Preparation H, Rectocaine), protectants, for example, glycerin, kaolin, lanolin, mineral oil (Balneol), astringents, for example, witch hazel and calamine, antiseptics, for example, boric acid and phenol, aeratolytics, for example, resorcinol, analgesics, for example, camphor and juniper tar, and corticosteroids.
If anal itching persists, a doctor examination may be needed to identify an underlying cause.
CAT ScanA CT scan is an X-ray procedure that combines many X-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of internal organs and structures of the body. A CT scan is a low-risk procedure. Contrast material may be injected into a vein or the spinal fluid to enhance the scan.
Chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip symptoms include an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, itchy ears, eyes, and throat. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) usually is caused by pollen in the air. Perennial allergic rhinitis is a type of chronic rhinitis and is a year-round problem, often caused by indoor allergens, such as dust, animal dander, and pollens that may exist at the time. Treatment of chronic rhinitis and post nasal drip are dependent upon the type of rhinitis condition.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
How to Relieve Eye AllergiesEye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, cause itchy eyes and other allergic symptoms. Avoiding allergens and using medicated eye drops can help. Learn about eye allergy triggers like mold and pollen, and eye allergy relief like shots and eye drops.
FaintingFainting, also referred to as blacking out, syncope, or temporary loss of consciousness has many causes. Often a person will have signs or symptoms prior to the fainting episode. Diagnosis and treatment depends upon the cause of the fainting or syncope episode.
Fixed Drug Eruption PictureA large red-violet plaque on the arm of a child. See a picture of Fixed Drug Eruption and learn more about the health topic.
HivesHives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin that is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. The allergy may be to food or medications, but usually the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown.
Allergy-Proof Your HomeTake this home allergy quiz and test your knowledge on allergens, dust mites, pollens and more to see how allergy-proof your home is.
ItchItching can be a common problem. Itches can be localized or generalized. There are many causes of itching to include: infection (jock itch, vaginal itch), disease (hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney), reactions to drugs, and skin infestations (pubic or body lice). Treatment for itching varies depending on the cause of the itch.
Nasal IrrigationNasal irrigation can relieve sinus symptoms associated with colds & allergies. Learn how nasal irrigation can help unclog sinuses and congestion.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Skin Test For AllergyAn allergy skin test helps identify triggers for one's allergic reactions. Small amounts of allergy-provoking substances (allergens) are scratched into the skin. Redness and swelling develop if one is allergic to the substance. A positive allergy skin test implies that the person has an IgE antibody response to that substance. The test is rapid, simple, and relatively safe.