Over 3 million individuals in the United States suffer from drug allergies. If you develop a rash, hives or difficulty breathing after taking certain medications, you may have a drug allergy. At Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Associates we are able to test for drug allergies and help patients avoid further discomforting or possibly life threatening reactions.
What Is a Drug Allergy?
As with other allergic reactions, drug allergy symptoms can occur when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized to a substance with in a medication and perceives it as a foreign invader. This results in the release of chemicals such as histamine, which leads to symptoms such as hives, rashes or difficulty breathing.
There are two broad categories of adverse drug reactions:
1) True Allergic Reaction
- In a true allergic reaction, the body’s immune system is involved and Ig-E mediated response(s) are seen.
- True allergic reactions occur in a small percentage of people.
2) Non-Allergic Reactions
- Non-allergic reactions do not involve the body’s immune system.
Drug Allergy Symptoms
Drug allergies are capable of producing an allergic reaction throughout the body. Symptoms of drug allergies may include:
- Skin Rash (“drug rashes”)
- Difficulty Breathing / Shortness of Breath
- Throat and Mouth Swelling
- Hypotension (sharp decrease in blood pressure)
- Anaphylaxis ** the most severe acute form of a drug reaction**
Drug Allergy Testing
Skin Testing is currently used to evaluate for a drug allergy to penicillin. Since penicillin is a commonly encountered drug allergy, skin testing has proven to be a reliable method in identifying mild to severe penicillin allergies.
A drug challenge has been shown to be an effective method in identifying drug allergies for patients who have high suspicion for certain medications. During a drug challenge, a small amount of the drug is administered to the patient in gradual doses while under close observation.
For certain medication, blood testing is available to check of Ig-E levels. A Board Certified Allergist can use the results of blood testing, combined with a patient’s medical history, to assist in making a diagnosis.
Drug Allergy Treatment
Management of drug allergies centers on avoidance of the offending drugs.
- Make sure all your doctors are aware drugs you are allergic to and the symptoms you experience when exposed to them.
- Avoid drugs you are known to be allergic to AND related drugs that may cause a similar reaction.
- Wear an emergency medical alert bracelet/necklace that clearly identifies your drug allergies.