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Drug Allergies

When a medical history is taken, it is vital to identify any drugs that cause reactions. Some have side effects, and others can prompt allergic reactions. In these cases, the immune system may work vigorously to remove a foreign substance, with potential harm, from the body.

Reactions to drugs may range from mild to life-threatening. Skin rashes, hives, nausea, vomiting and anaphylaxis may result. Some of the most common drugs triggering allergic reactions include penicillin and other antibiotics. Other drugs, resulting in allergic reactions, include anticonvulsants, insulin and X-ray contrast dyes with iodine.

Most side effects from drugs do not occur because of an allergic reaction. Some uncomfortable side effects of a medicine such as nausea are often confused or misidentified as a drug allergy.


Symptoms for drug allergies can range from mild to life-threatening. Some of these include rash, hives and itchiness of the skin or eyes. Other drug reactions include congestion as well as swelling in the mouth, tongue, throat and face.

More severe reactions may include difficulty breathing, blueness of the skin, dizziness, fainting, anxiety and confusion. Other more extreme responses to drugs, which cannot be tolerated in the system, are rapid pulse, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal problems. More alarming reactions are rapid pulse and palpitations.

In these cases, an examination may show decreased blood pressure besides some of the previously mentioned symptoms. Skin testing may help diagnose a drug allergy involving penicillin-related medications. Accurate skin or blood tests are currently not available to identify other drug allergies.


When a drug reaction occurs, immediate steps are needed to ease symptoms and prevent a severe reaction. Some options include antihistamines, which relieve mild symptoms such as rash, hives and itchiness. Bronchodilators also reduce asthma-like symptoms, which include moderate wheezing or coughing.

Other treatments use corticosteroids, which are sometimes applied to the skin. In addition, they may be given orally or intravenously. To treat anaphylaxis, epinephrine is administered.

When a drug allergy is identified, patients need to avoid the problematic medication and related drugs. They also need to share this important information with other physicians, dentists and hospital staff members. Another precaution is always wearing identification with this information.

By taking these necessary steps and seeking Dr. Avshalomov’s experienced guidance, patients can protect their health, safety—and life.

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