Allergies are a common condition many people of all ages face. In the United States, there are over 50 million individuals who have experienced one or more types of allergies.
Some of the most common types of allergies include pollen, pet hair, and dust mites. Many of these allergies are chronic conditions that a person has their whole life.
Medication allergies are another, less common type of allergy caused by an abnormal immune reaction to certain kinds of drugs. Some individuals may experience some kind of negative reaction to particular drugs but only about 5-10% of these reactions are allergic in nature.
Some allergic reactions to medication can be very sudden and severe and may require immediate medical attention but most of them are mild and may go away after a few days when the individual stops taking the drugs.
Since the triggers for drug allergies are not common like that of pollen or dust allergies, many individuals may never know they are allergic to a certain substance until they take it at some point in their lives.
This post will delve deeper into the causes of common medication allergies and look at how they could be treated.
Mild symptoms of drug allergies may occur hours or weeks after taking a particular drug; these symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Skin rashes
Of these symptoms, skin reactions like rashes and hives are the most common symptoms observed in people with medication allergies.
In some rare cases, however, a person could experience anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction to certain drugs. This condition causes severe symptoms such as:
- Tightening of the throat causing breathing difficulties
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Drops in blood pressure
- Abdominal cramps
When a person experiences anaphylaxis, they should receive medical treatment immediately. If you experience mild symptoms from a drug allergy, you should still consider visiting a doctor.
Causes and triggers
Drug allergies happen when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies some types of medication as a harmful substance, causing the body to react by producing antibodies to attack the drug. This immune response usually happens an hour or so after the drug has been taken.
Research has shown that genes play a role in why some people are allergic to certain medications. Most of these allergies may run in families and if a parent was allergic to a certain drug, the child could develop an allergy to it at some point in their life.
Any kind of drug can cause an allergic reaction but there are some which are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than others; these include:
- Penicillin and other antibiotics
- Aspirin (used for pain relief)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chemotherapy drugs like procarbazine
Some of these drugs are vital for certain individuals so ensure to get tested to see if you’re allergic to a particular drug before you start taking it.
An important thing to note is that side effects and allergies are not the same. Every kind of medication can have side effects and these can happen to anyone, even those who aren’t allergic to a certain drug, and in most cases, these side effects do not involve the immune system.
The treatments for drug allergies depend heavily on their severity. Normally, if a person experiences a severe allergic reaction to a drug, they’ll have to avoid taking it completely and have another drug prescribed to them.
If the allergic reactions are mild, you’ll still be prescribed the drug but your doctor may prescribe another drug to quell the allergy symptoms or block the immune response.
Common medication for treating mild drug allergies are:
The body produces a chemical called histamine during an allergic response, and it’s this chemical that causes itching and other skin reactions during an allergic reaction to a drug. Antihistamines block histamine production, providing some relief from the symptoms. This medication can be administered as topical creams, sprays, and pills.
Corticosteroids are used for treating some of the more harmful symptoms of drug allergies, usually the swelling of the airways. This drug helps reduce inflammation, keeping the airways open and allowing the patient to breathe.
Medication allergies can be controlled
Drug allergies can be very inconvenient, especially if you’re dependent on a certain type of drug. Thankfully, there are ways to curb the side effects of these immune reactions and alternative medicine are available to help with some illnesses.
If you suspect that you’re experiencing allergic reactions to a certain drug, seek help immediately.