A Medication (or Drug) Allergy is an immune hypersensitivity to a medication that can result in a rash, hives, swelling, itching and breathing issues. You may have been on the same medication for years when you suddenly react. Common medications that trigger allergic reactions include penicillin, antibiotics with sulfonamides (sulfa drugs), anticonvulsants, aspirin, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and chemotherapy drugs.


Symptoms include skin rashes or hives, itching, swelling and wheezing or other breathing problems. Anaphylaxis, an extreme and dangerous reaction that may result in a lowering of blood pressure, may also occur. Unless severe, the symptoms may be masked by the illness or chronic condition for which the medicine was prescribed. Many people are sensitive to medications and confuse side effects with an allergic reaction. Side effects are not immune responses; they are unwanted symptoms. Examples of common side effects of medications include upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and skin reactions to sunlight.


Your Gateway Asthma & Allergy Relief doctor will take a complete drug history, including when and how often the medicine was taken, the formulation, dosage and administration of the medicine, as well as do a physical exam to evaluate any clinical symptoms. If you suspect that you have a Medication Allergy to penicillin, and need to take penicillin for a particular condition, your doctor may recommend a penicillin skin test where a small amount is injected under the skin and the site observed for a response. Many people that had a mild reaction as a child may not have any issues taking penicillin now.


If it is suspected or determined that you have a Medication Allergy, your best option is to avoid using that medication and any other medicines that have similar properties. If you think you are experiencing a reaction, you should stop taking the medication and contact the prescribing doctor immediately. A mild reaction like a rash or hives can be treated with an antihistamine. Corticosteroid cream or tablets may be prescribed if the symptoms do not subside. Should you have a severe reaction and have trouble breathing, you should seek emergency care right away. Your doctor may suggest that you purchase an ID bracelet or other means of identifying any medications that you should not be given in an emergency situation.