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Drug Allergies
True drug allergies are uncommon, but when they exist, they can cause severe reactions, including a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. For this reason, it’s important to see Richard Herrscher, MD and Maryam Saifi MD, at AIR Care as soon as you suspect a drug allergy. They have extensive experience getting to the bottom of your symptoms, identifying the drug you’re allergic to, and effectively treating the problem. Call our office today Dallas 214-373-1773 or Plano 972-473-7544 to schedule an appointment.

Drug Allergies Q & A

What causes a drug allergy?

Many people have reactions to medications, but only 5-10% of these reactions are true allergies. In most cases, they have a drug sensitivity or a side effect.

If you have a true drug allergy, your immune system develops antibodies to the medication. Every time you take that medication, the immune system releases chemicals like histamines that cause an allergic reaction.

You can have allergies to any type of medication, but drugs that frequently cause this problem include:

  • Antibiotics such as penicillin
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

If you’re already allergic to one drug, you have a higher risk of developing an allergy to another unrelated drug.

What symptoms develop due to a drug allergy?

An allergic reaction typically occurs within minutes to a few hours of taking the drug, although it’s also possible to have a delayed response. Since drugs get into your bloodstream, they can cause a wide range of allergy symptoms, including: 

  • Hives
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

Drug allergies can also cause a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Signs of anaphylaxis include shortness of breath, throat and mouth swelling, and dizziness or fainting. If you experience these symptoms, call 9-1-1 for immediate medical care.

How are drug allergies treated?

After reviewing your history, Dr. Herrscher may perform a skin prick allergy test, which can identify an allergy in 15-20 minutes. Should the team have any doubts about your skin test, they may do a blood test or a graded challenge to verify the results. 

During a graded challenge, you’ll take the drug in several doses, starting with a very small dose and gradually increasing each one to see if you have an allergic reaction.

Discontinuing the medication is the first step of treatment. For most patients, this puts an end to their drug allergy. However, if you’re allergic to a medication you need to take, Dr. Herrscher may recommend a treatment called drug desensitization. 

During this treatment, you take progressively larger doses of the drug every 15-30 minutes over several hours or days. If this ongoing exposure to the drug desensitizes your immune system, you can keep taking the drug.

If you suspect you have a drug allergy, call AIR Care.