Wait, Do You Have a Common Drug Allergy?

how to identify a drug allergy

Drug allergies can cause symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening. Knowing what symptoms to watch for and what to do if you have them is key for your safety.


When your immune system responds abnormally to the presence of a certain medication, this is known as a drug allergy. This type of reaction, which differs from drug side effects, can produce mild symptoms or trigger a serious and potentially life-threatening one that requires immediate medical care. In order to keep yourself safe while taking any kind of medication, including prescription and nonprescription, it is important to learn more about how to identify a drug allergy.

When Symptoms Occur

Symptoms of a drug allergy can show up shortly after you take a certain medication. You might also have an allergic reaction hours later or even weeks later, although these delayed reactions occur less often. If you believe that you are having an allergic reaction, think back on what medication you have taken and when you last took it.

Common Drugs Associated with Allergies

All medications have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. This reaction occurs when your immune system flags a medication as harmful and produces antibodies against it. When your body is exposed to this medication, it triggers allergic reactions. Keep in mind that you might have a higher chance of experiencing allergy symptoms if you have one or more risk factors, such as a personal history of allergies, a family history of drug allergies, allergic reactions to other medications, or increased exposure to certain medications. Some common drugs that are linked to drug allergies include the following:

  • Amoxicillin, penicillin, and other antibiotics
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Drugs used for autoimmune conditions
  • Corticosteroids

Common Drug Allergy Symptoms

Drug allergy symptoms can affect your skin or respiratory system. Common symptoms that affect your skin include rashes and hives. You might also have itching or swelling. Common drug allergy symptoms that affect your respiratory system include wheezing and shortness of breath. You might also have itchy eyes, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Some individuals with drug allergies also have a fever when their immune system triggers an allergic reaction.

Less Common Symptoms

When you have a drug allergy, you might experience symptoms that are less common. These symptoms can appear several days after you have taken a certain medication, and they might take a longer time to subside once you are have stopped taking the medication. These symptoms include the following:

  • Anemia: Drug allergies can cause you to have a lower red blood cells count, which can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue and an irregular heartbeat
  • Rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms: These include an elevated white blood cell count, swelling in your lymph nodes, a rash, and swelling.
  • Serum sickness: These symptoms include fever, soreness in your joints, a rash, nausea, and swelling.
  • Kidney inflammation: This reaction can cause swelling, fever, and blood in your urine.

Serious Reactions

Some allergic reactions to drugs can become life-threatening without prompt medical attention. This type of reaction, known as anaphylaxis, is considered rare, but it is important to know the symptoms it can cause. These include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing due to narrowed airways in the throat
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Seizure
  • Sudden decrease in blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid pulse

If you need more information on how to identify a drug allergy, please contact Smith-Caldwell Drug Store at 501-315-7700. Any drug allergy should be reported to your Smith Caldwell pharmacist as well as your physician; this way, your pharmacist can monitor drugs with similar potential for an allergic reaction. Then, our compounding pharmacy in Benton, Arkansas, can help you find safe alternatives to drugs that you are allergic to.

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