Everyone reacts to medications differently and all medications have a potential to cause side effects. These side effects can be secondary to drug intolerance or true drug allergy. Only about 5- 10% of adverse reactions to drugs are allergic. Whether allergic or not, reactions to medications can range from mild to life-threatening.
The immune system identifies that “culprit” drug as a harmful substance (“allergen”) and hence, a chain of events in your immune system is started. These lead to symptoms that range from mild to life threatening. This reaction causes symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin.
The signs are obvious and hard to ignore
Most allergic symptoms occur within minutes to hours of exposure. However, some severe reactions may develop after 2-6 weeks of taking the drugs. The symptoms include:
- Constriction of the airways, wheezing or swollen tongue or throat
- Shock and a severe decrease in blood pressure
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
- Generalized hives & itching
- Flushed or pale skin
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Anaphylaxis - hives, facial or throat swelling, wheezing, light-headedness, vomiting and shock
- Drug rash
- Blisters and ulcers - eye, lips, mouth and genital region
- Joint pain
- Skin detachment (as in burns)
The risk for such reactions is higher if you are allergic or have asthma or have had previous drug reactions. However, contrary to popular myth, a family history of a reaction to a specific drug does not increase your chance of reacting to the same drug.
When to See an Allergist/Immunologist
An allergist has specialized training to diagnose the true drug allergy vs. drug intolerance and help you develop a plan to protect you in the future.
Prevent future reactions
A board certified allergist will review your medical history and perform testing to medications (e.g. local anesthetics and penicillin) to determine your allergy. As necessary, increasing amounts of the suspected drug will be administered while you are monitored in a controlled setting. We at The Allergy Group will develop a treatment plan for you on how to prevent future reactions.
The Allergy Group - Friendly, capable and experienced
Our team of physicians and healthcare professionals at The Allergy Group are highly experienced and trained to provide you with the best care. We are committed to your personal healthcare.