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Five Things You Need To Know About Drug Allergies


Here are Five Things You Need To Know About Drug Allergies

Medical science and pharmaceutical engineering continue to provide us with more and more treatment options every year. These advances often help save lives and help us live better and healthier. But sometimes, drugs cause more problems than they solve. This happens when we experience drug reactions or develop drug allergies.

What you need to know about drug allergies:

  1. Not all drug reactions are caused by drug allergies. Some are caused by multiple medications interacting with one another.
  2. Drug allergies are caused by a hypersensitive immune system response to the medication itself or to a chemical reaction the medication caused in your body.
  3. Drug allergies tend to run in families. If people in your family have drug allergies, you’re more likely to have drug allergies, but not necessarily the same ones.
  4. Penicillin allergies, cephalosporin allergies, sulfa allergies, and contrast dye allergies are the most common drug allergies.
  5. Drug allergies can be mild, moderate, or severe. In all cases, when you have a drug reaction, you should report it to your physician and stop taking the drug immediately to avoid worsening reactions.

Not sure if you’re having an allergic drug reaction? These are the most common symptoms of a drug allergy:

  1. Rashes and hives (itchy or not)
  2. Breathing problems (wheezing, shortness of breath)
  3. Swelling (most common in the neck, throat, face, tongue, and lips, but can appear elsewhere)

Severe allergic reactions include increasingly serious symptoms including anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening and includes a variety of symptoms, some of which are the same as those above far more severe:

  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • Severe throat, lip, and/or tongue swelling
  • An extremely itchy or burning rash
  • Obstructed breathing, wheezing, or bronchial spasms
  • Shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Severe headache
  • Abdominal pain including diarrhea and/or vomiting

When people have drug allergies, medical ID jewelry truly is a daily necessity. Each exposure to a medication to which you are allergic is likely to cause increasingly serious responses. Medical personnel need to know about your drug allergies so they do not give you the medications to which you know you’re allergic or related drugs, which are more likely than others to cause a reaction.

Do you wear a Lauren’s Hope medical ID bracelet due to drug allergies? Would you like to share your story on the Lauren’s Hope blog? We want to hear from you! 


I've worn Lauren's Hope medical bracelets for years, first for Diabetes, then when I discovered I have severe drug allergies, I got a new tag with that info on it, too. I'd just like to add that there's another kind of drug allergy, called a serum sickness-like reaction (SSLR). This is what I have. It isn't as dangerous as anaphylaxis, but is quite debilitating, as attacks continue for a long time (in my case, months). It is also frustrating because it is rare, and many ER and GP docs aren't familiar with it. Because SSLR happens after several days of exposure to a drug (in my case, 7 days after taking a sulfa drug, Septra), the EMTs that rescued me didn't believe it was an allergy attack, and thought I was merely having a panic attack. Very frustrating!
Posted @ Thursday, March 07, 2013 1:38 PM by Melinda Pino
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