Overview on drug allergy

Drug allergy is an allergic reaction to certain medications. Once a particular drug enters the body, it initiates a response by the immune system which produces specific IgE which is called sensitization. Once the drug is ingested again, the IgE antibodies take action by releasing substantial amounts of histamine that attempts to eliminate the drug from the body.

Signs and symptoms of drug allergy

The indications of drug allergy can range from minor discomfort to a life-threatening situation. Various medications can trigger irritation or intolerance such as stomach upset. Nevertheless, histamine is released during an allergic reaction which is responsible for various symptoms which include skin rashes, hives, itchy eyes or skin, congestion and swelling in the throat and mouth.

The symptoms of a severe reaction include bluish skin, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting and an erratic pulse rate.

What are the drugs that can trigger a reaction?

The usual cause of drug allergy is penicillin and other types of antibiotics that are closely similar to penicillin. The drugs known to trigger reactions that do not involve the IgE antibodies include barbiturates, sulfa drugs, aspirin, anticonvulsants, contrast dye material, non-steroidal agents and many others.

Drug allergy

For cough and lung congestion, the doctor might prescribe adrenergic bronchodilators.

Diagnosing drug allergies

Allergic reactions to drugs can be diagnosed with a thorough review of the medical history of the individual as well as the symptoms. Once an allergy to a particular antibiotic such as penicillin is possible, the doctor will perform a skin test to confirm the allergy.

On the other hand, skin testing is not available for all drugs and can be dangerous in some cases. Due to the potential risk linked with a reaction, if the individual had a severe reaction to a particular drug, the doctor will not consider using an alternative agent.

Treatment of drug allergy

The main concern when managing drug allergy is to relieve the symptoms. The typical symptoms such as hives, rash and itchiness can be managed with antihistamines and even corticosteroids occasionally.

For cough and lung congestion, the doctor might prescribe adrenergic bronchodilators. As for serious reactions with anaphylactic symptoms, a shot of epinephrine is administered.

Desensitization is usually utilized in managing drug allergy especially in cases when testing is not available or feasible. This technique is specifically structured to allow the body to temporarily tolerate the allergy-causing agents. During the sensitization to penicillin, small amounts of penicillin are administered in a periodic manner at increasing levels until the immune system is able to tolerate the drug.

Life with an allergy

If the individual has a drug allergy, it is vital to inform the doctor of the allergy before starting any form of treatment including dental care. It is vital to wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet or always bring along a medical care that identifies the allergy. In case of emergencies, this type of identification can save his/her life.


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