A drug allergy is an allergic reaction to a drug or medication. An allergic reaction means that your immune system identifies the drug as foreign and acts to eliminate it from your body. Your immune system responds to foreign substances in multiple ways, all of which lead to increased inflammation. These inflammatory responses may cause you to have symptoms such as rash, fever or breathing difficulties.
Any medication is capable of inducing a drug allergy. However, a drug allergy is more likely with certain medications. It is not one of the common forms of allergies. A drug allergy is different from both drug side effects and drug toxicity.
Causes of a drug allergy
A drug allergy occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies a drug as a harmful substance- a viral or bacterial infection. Although any drug can cause an allergic reaction
, some drugs are more commonly associated with allergies including:
- Antibiotics, such as penicillin
- Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chemotherapy drugs for treating cancer
- Medications for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Corticosteroid creams or lotions
- Medications for people with HIV or AIDS
- Bee pollen products
Prevention of a drug allergy
If you have a drug allergy, the best prevention is to avoid the problem drug. If your drug allergy has caused anaphylaxis
or other severe reactions, you need to carry emergency epinephrine.
You may be suffering from a drug allergy if you depict the following signs and symptoms:
Anaphylaxis is a severe form of drug allergy and also a life-threatening condition, symptoms of which include:
If you have an allergic reaction to a drug, the first step is to stop taking that medication. You may also need additional medication to ease any uncomfortable symptoms. There are several medications available to treat drug allergies, such as:
- Antihistamines: For mild symptoms such as a rash, hives, and itching, over-the-counter antihistamines can be effective. These drugs may cause drowsiness.
- Bronchodilator: A bronchodilator can help when main symptoms include wheezing or coughing.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids can be taken by mouth, intravenous injection, or applied directly to the skin. They act more slowly than antihistamines, but last longer and can provide relief from some of the more serious symptoms of a drug allergy.
- Epinephrine: In acute anaphylaxis cases, epinephrine should be taken by injection as soon as possible.