4 Reasons to Find out if You Have a Drug Allergy

Jul 01, 2023
4 Reasons to Find out if You Have a Drug Allergy
A reaction to a medication could be a side effect, not an allergy. If you do have a drug allergy, however, you may need to switch meds or undergo desensitization. Here’s why you should find out if you’re having a side effect … or an allergy.

Drug allergies are rare, but can be life-threatening. As with other allergies, drug allergies occur when your immune system erroneously determines it’s under attack and produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. The IgE antibodies cause an inflammatory response that results in symptoms.

Many drugs cause side effects that can mimic allergy symptoms, such as headache or nausea. But a true drug allergy could put your life in danger.

Lakshmi Reddy, MD, of the Allergy and Asthma Institute, specializes in identifying and treating drug allergies. At our office in North Atlanta, Georgia, you may need to undergo a tolerance treatment so that you can continue to take the drugs that keep you healthy and safe. Drugs that commonly trigger allergic reactions include:

  • Penicillin and related antibiotics
  • Antibiotics that contain sulfonamides (i.e. sulfa drugs)
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies

Do you have a drug allergy? Following are four reasons why you should be tested to determine the answer.

1. A true allergic response can be life-threatening

Drug allergies may cause an extreme reaction called anaphylaxis. When your body undergoes anaphylaxis, your airways may swell, making it difficult or — ultimately — impossible to breathe. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Hives

If you or anyone you know exhibits the symptoms of anaphylaxis, head straight to the nearest emergency room. 

2. Your symptoms make it hard to take the drug you need

Some medications, such as those used in chemotherapy treatments, may be life-saving. If you’re having trouble tolerating chemotherapy and your symptoms go beyond the expected side effects, find out if you have an allergy instead.

If you’re allergic to the only medication that can treat your cancer, we initiate a desensitization treatment that helps your body accept the drug. Every 15-30 minutes, Dr. Reddy injects a very small and gradually increasing amount of drug into your system.

The initial dose is so low that it doesn’t trigger an allergic response. By the end of the treatment period, your body has become desensitized to the new drug and has adjusted to its presence. You can now take it without a reaction.

3. You’re taking multiple medications

If you need multiple medications to manage an acute or chronic condition, you may have no idea which of the drugs you take are the allergen. Contact us for medication allergy testing if you have the following symptoms while on one or multiple medications:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose or eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea

When you come for drug allergy testing, Dr. Reddy administers tests for all of the medications you’re taking to determine which of them is causing your symptoms. She may also test for other drugs you might need to safeguard your health in the future, such as antibiotics.

4. Other drugs can help you tolerate allergens

If your medication allergy is mild, but you still need to take the drug, Dr. Reddy may recommend antihistamines or other drugs. These can help you tolerate your mild symptoms.

You may need to take the anti-allergy medications before you take the drug you’re allergic to so that your immune response is already in a less reactive state. However, Dr. Reddy recommends drug desensitization as the better way to continue your medication without an allergic response.

If you suspect that you have a drug allergy, tests for medication allergies can preserve your health or even save your life. Book a medication allergy test today by phoning our friendly staff at 678-615-7878 or using our online appointment form.