Drug Allergies

Drug Allergies

Drug Allergies can be caused by both prescription and over the counter drugs. These allergic reactions to drugs can be mild to severe. 

Which drugs are the most common triggers?

  • Antibiotics, such as penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, penicillin, tetracycline, and others
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Advil, ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin)
  • Chemotherapy
  • HIV drugs
  • Insulin
  • Antiseizure drugs
  • IV-administered muscle relaxers
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy used to treat some cancers

What are the symptoms?

Skin rashes or hives and itching; wheezing and breathing issues; dizziness and nausea. Sometimes anaphylaxis occurs. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate professional treatment as it can be fatal.

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is another severe drug-related allergic reaction that requires immediate treatment. It often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed (usually a few days later) by a red or purplish rash that may itch and blister.

What is the treatment?

Discontinuing the drug and in some cases, oral or injected steroids, oral antihistamines, or asthma medicine. Anaphylaxis reactions require an epinephrine injection, followed by hospital care to monitor and support breathing and blood pressure.

Can it be prevented?

Sometimes drug allergies can be predicted prior to a reaction by a skin or blood test, particularly if a specific allergy runs in your family. Make sure you let all healthcare providers know if you’ve ever experienced an allergic reaction to a drug. If you’ve experienced a severe drug reaction, you may want to wear or carry a medical alert. Your first allergic reaction to a drug is usually the mildest, so if it occurs a second time, it will likely be worse.

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