When many of us think of allergies, we usually think about hay fever and having symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes and nasal congestion. However, you can have allergies to other substances that don’t produce many of the typical symptoms we associate with seasonal allergies. Sometimes, people develop allergies to certain medications.
Let’s take a closer look at the signs of a drug allergy as well as what treatment options exist.
What Happens When You Have a Drug Allergy?
When you have an allergic reaction to any substance, whether pollen or a certain medication, your body’s response is the same: The first time you take the medication, your body mistakes it for a harmful substance and creates antibodies to fight against it the next time it comes into contact with that substance. You may or may not experience symptoms when first exposed.
The next time you take that medication, those antibodies will react and tell your body to release chemicals like histamine, which are responsible for your allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of a drug allergy can vary in severity and may occur immediately or up to several days after taking it. They can include:
- Itchy skin or eyes
- Hives or other skin rash
In more severe cases, you may experience swelling of the face, lips or tongue, difficulty breathing or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you experience severe symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate emergency medical attention.
The Difference Between a Drug Allergy and Experiencing Side Effects
Many medications can cause side effects that, while unpleasant, are not a drug allergy. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “only about 5 to 10% of adverse reactions to drugs are allergic.”
If you have a bad reaction to a certain medication, you should inform your doctor regardless of whether or not it is allergic in nature. If you have a severe reaction or a history of reactions to several different medications or medications that are known to cause allergies, you will likely be referred to an allergist for testing to determine whether or not an allergy exists.
Treating Allergic Reactions to Medication
Obviously, if you are discovered to have an allergy to a medication, you should stop taking it to prevent symptoms. In many cases, this may be the only treatment necessary. Your doctor may also recommend over-the-counter creams or antihistamines that you can find at Anchor Pharmacy or other local Georgia drugstores.
For more severe reactions, your doctor may prescribe medications such as oral or injected corticosteroids or the use of an epinephrine injector in cases of anaphylaxis.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with an expert allergist, contact ENT of Georgia North today.