Drug allergies are a type of allergy that occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to a medication. Drug allergies can be mild or severe, and they can affect people of all ages.
The most common drug allergies are to antibiotics, such as penicillin and cephalosporins. Other common drug allergies include allergies to aspirin, ibuprofen, and ibuprofen-like medications (NSAIDs), and to chemotherapy drugs.
Drug allergy symptoms can vary depending on the person and the medication they are allergic to. Some common symptoms include:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or face
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
In severe cases, drug allergies can trigger a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the throat. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 immediately.
If you think you may have a drug allergy, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and learn about your treatment options. Treatment options may include:
- Avoiding the medication that you are allergic to
- Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve your symptoms
- Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, in some cases
If you have any questions or concerns about drug allergies, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Here are some additional tips for managing drug allergies:
- Keep a list of all the medications that you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins.
- Show your list of medications to all of your healthcare providers.
- Always ask your healthcare provider before taking a new medication.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) with you at all times in case of an anaphylactic reaction.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that states that you have drug allergies.