Causes of Drug Allergies and Their Treatments

Drug allergies are the negative reactions of medications with your immune system. All medication types including prescription, OTC, herbal that you take using pill reminder app are capable of causing allergic reactions.

Rash, fever, and hives are the most common symptoms and signs of drug allergies. If not taken care of properly, drug allergies can have severe effects on health, which sometimes may even result in life-threatening condition or even death.

Remember that drug allergies are different from drug side effects. When we talk about these allergies we are talking about our body’s own immune system fighting with a drug after it enters the body as a defense mechanism.

Side effects, on the other hand, are the common risks often mentioned on the labeling of the drug. Upset stomach, for example, is a common side effect of the famous ibuprofen.

What Are the Most Common Drugs That Cause Allergic Reactions?

Aspirin and other NSAIDs

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are often the first solution for pain or inflammation. Aspirin and other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen have the potential to cause allergic reactions, but it happens very rarely (less than three in 1000 people).

Typically, ibuprofen and naproxen are safer than aspirin when it comes to medication side effects. But if you’re allergic to aspirin the other two drugs may give you allergies as well. Be watchful of signs of allergic reactions when taking aspirin using medication alert app, particularly if you are taking this drug regularly for the first time.

Allergy Symptoms

in case you get any of the following symptoms after taking aspirin or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug means that you can have an aspirin sensitivity:

  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Itchy rashes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Rashes around the mouth
  • A cough and wheezing
  • Hives
  • Worsening asthma
  • Anaphylaxis which is a lethal reaction

Penicillin Antibiotics

Penicillin antibiotics such as amoxicillin and dicloxacillin can also cause allergies. Consequently, one in 10 people reacts allergically to penicillin antibiotics according to studies. For this reason, healthcare specialists often opt for other options when it comes to treatments involving antibiotics. However, there are some conditions that only require penicillin to improve.

For such conditions, “drug desensitization” is used by specialists. The dose is gradually increased in this method and the patient is constantly monitored for potential allergy symptoms. Generally, drug desensitization is done in a hospital environment for enhanced safety and to ensure that medical help is nearby if a serious reaction occurs. Once a tolerant threshold is found, doctors stop increasing the dose any further.

Allergy Symptoms

Penicillin allergy has many symptoms which can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include itching, hives, flushing, red skin rash, and others such as:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, and face
  • Dizziness and loss of consciousness or fainting

Contact your specialist as soon as you experience any of these symptoms.

Sulfa Drugs

These drugs contain sulfonamide and can cause allergic reactions in about 3 out of every 100 people. Antimicrobials and anticonvulsants are popular types of sulfa drugs. If you are taking these medications, pay close attention to signs and symptoms of allergies.

An interesting fact about sulfa drug family is that its antibiotics cause more allergic reactions than other types of sulfa medications.

Since sulfonamide is an active ingredient of so many drugs, doctors prescribe this drug with great caution, and if no other alternative is available, drug desensitization may be used by the specialists.

Allergy Symptoms

It is not known why some patients are allergic to sulfa drugs but those with HIV or AIDS are the likeliest to suffer from this allergy. Symptoms of sulfa allergy include:

  • Rash or hives on the skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Itchy eyes
  • Feeling congested
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Asthma or wheezing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome which causes severe skin blisters and lesions
  • Light-headedness
  • abdominal cramping
  • Anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening allergic reaction


This drug allergy is rare but lethal that can severely affect body systems. Signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Nausea or abdominal cramps
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Conditions Resulting from Drug Allergies

Some drug allergies can lead to other conditions that may persist for some time. These conditions may include:

  • Serum sickness which may result in fever, joint pain, rash, and nausea
  • Drug-induced anemia, which can cause fatigue, irregular heartbeats, and breathing problems.
  • Nephritis (inflammation in the kidneys) can cause fever, blood in the urine, swelling, and other symptoms.
  • Finally, drug rash with eosinophilia may result in rash, swelling, high white blood cell count, swollen lymph nodes, etc.

Risk Factors

While no one is immune to allergic reactions, the following factors can put you at higher risk:

  • Personal or family history of allergic reactions to drugs
  • Drug addiction
  • Illnesses such as HIV or AIDS

Drug Allergy Treatment

Simply put, the best allergy treatment is avoidance. Once you learn about your allergies to a certain drug try avoiding it all costs and take a safer alternative using medication reminder app for iPhone. Also, you will need to tell your specialist about it so they don’t prescribe it to you in any situation. In case you are experiencing a drug reaction, seek immediate medical attention.