Everything You Should Know About Medication Allergy

Have you ever experienced red and cracked skin, swollen eyes, face, lips, and tongue after taking a medication? Check if it’s a medication allergy. This is how your immune system reacts to the medication you take.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, nearly 5 to 10 percent of people experience medication allergies.

But the good part is that reach out to the proper primary care service in order to manage your allergy to medications successfully.

As many people confuse these reactions for side effects, it’s time to know everything about medication allergies. So, let’s understand what medication allergy is, its cause, signs and symptoms, and how to diagnose this allergy.

 What is medication allergy?

Medication allergy is otherwise called drug allergy. An unusual reaction of your immune system to any medication or a particular type of drug is called drug allergy. Allergies often result in rashes or fever. Some drugs can cause serious complications that can be life-threatening if not addressed.

A drug allergy is not the same as drug toxicity nor are they similar to the side effects that are usually listed on the label of a drug. Drug allergy involves your immune system while immunity has no role in side effects.


Drug allergies often occur when your body’s immune system identifies a drug you may be taking as a harmful substance and releases chemical reactions to fight it off. Even a trace amount of a drug is capable of causing such a reaction.

Although any drug can cause an allergic reaction, some drugs that are commonly associated with allergies include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Cancer treatment drugs
  • Drugs for HIV/AIDS
  • Drugs for autoimmune disorders such as arthritis

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of medication allergy include:

  • Skin rashes, hives, and itching
  • Fever, cold, and wheezing
  • Swelling and watery eyes


Sometimes a rare, life-threatening reaction to a drug allergy called anaphylaxis can affect the functioning of your entire body. Typical signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • The tightening of your airways causes trouble with your breathing
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness or seizure
  • A weak or a rapid pulse rate or a drop in blood pressure

Other reactions that result from drug allergy include:

  • Fever accompanied by joint aches and swelling
  • A drop in the number of red blood cells in your body causes fatigue, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat
  • Rashes accompanied by swelling and an increase in the count of your white blood cells

 Tests and diagnosis

A thorough diagnosis might be needed to avoid a misdiagnosis and the use of more expensive drugs. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and an evaluation of your symptoms.

Other allergy tests include:

Skin tests

A small area of your skin is examined with a suspected drug through an injection or a patch. A positive reaction can cause a red and itchy raised bump.

Blood tests

Blood tests can reveal other underlying conditions that could be causing an allergic reaction that is similar to a drug allergy. These are specifically tested for if there is a severe reaction to a skin test.


Treatment for drug allergy can involve:

  • Treating your current symptoms
  • Treating you in a way that enables you to take allergy-causing medication if necessary

Treatment of a drug allergy may involve:

  • Discontinuing the drug that is causing the allergy, after consulting your doctor
  • Antihistamines are prescribed by the doctor
  • Corticosteroids are taken orally or through injections to treat the inflammation that is accompanied by drug allergies
  • An epinephrine injection or hospitalization to treat, the life-threatening condition, anaphylaxis.

Drug desensitization

You may also be recommended to desensitize yourself by taking the drug that has caused an allergic reaction in your body. A small dose followed by progressively larger doses every half hour or so for a few days may be required for you to reach a point where there is no more reaction from the drug.

To know what will be the right treatment to manage your medication allergy issue, make sure to connect with primary care physicians right away.

Seek a primary care service near you

In case you are diagnosed with a medication allergy, schedule an appointment with CareFirst 360 primary care physicians for a consultation immediately. As mentioned already, they will offer a personalized approach that works for you.