HomeMedicine ArticlesMedical Allergies and How to Identify Them

Medical Allergies and How to Identify Them

Some allergies are common in the general population, like pollen or food allergies, while others are rare. But the most likely place you’ll encounter an allergic reaction is in your medicine cabinet, so it’s essential to know how to identify common drug allergies and reduce your risk of having an allergic reaction when taking medication. This article will cover some ways you can help identify medical allergies and reduce your risk of an allergic reaction, as well as some things you should do if you suspect you might be experiencing an allergic reaction.

Common Drug Allergies

A reaction to medicine can result in severe illness or even death. This is due to an immune system response that causes inflammation throughout different areas of your body. Common drug allergies include penicillin, sulphites, latex, cephalosporins and local anaesthetics. An allergic reaction may occur after only one dose of medication, or it may take several doses before you experience symptoms.

Symptoms of a drug allergy may occur immediately after taking a drug, or it may take hours or days before you notice them. You may feel nauseous, develop hives or a rash, have difficulty breathing, get dizzy or feel very itchy. Some common medical allergies include penicillin (antibiotics), sulphites (preservatives) in food, latex in gloves and condoms, local anaesthetics used for dental procedures and cephalosporins (an antibiotic).

Forms of Drug Allergy

There are several forms of drug allergies. These include:

1. Skin Allergy

This is a rash or skin reaction from an allergic reaction to medicine. People who develop skin allergies from medicine have hives, redness, or blistering on their skin. They can also experience swelling around their eyes, mouth, or tongue.

2. Respiratory Allergy

Respiratory Allergy is a reaction in your lungs that can be severe and cause serious breathing problems. A person with respiratory allergies may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, or a runny nose. Certain types of drugs usually trigger respiratory allergies. The most common culprits are penicillin and beta-lactam antibiotics like amoxicillin, cephalosporins, erythromycin, clindamycin, imipenem-cilastatin, quinolones, carbapenems, and monobactams.

3. Gastrointestinal Allergy

This is a reaction in your digestive system that can be severe, causing stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. Some of these symptoms are similar to what you might experience with food poisoning caused by bacteria (see below). The difference is that food poisoning symptoms occur within six hours of eating bad food—whereas drug allergies can appear up to two weeks after you’ve taken a drug.

4. Anaphylaxis

This is a severe reaction that can be life-threatening because it causes swelling in your throat, tongue, and lungs—making it difficult for you to breathe. People who have an anaphylactic reaction usually go into shock right away—which can cause brain damage if they don’t get medical help fast enough.

5. Fever or Infection

Many drugs give people fever or infection symptoms shortly after taking them. The most common culprits are antibiotics (like tetracycline), sulphonamides (like trimethoprim), penicillins (like amoxicillin), erythromycin, and chloramphenicol. These drugs can also cause diarrhea or a severe rash.

If your doctor prescribes one of these medications for you, ask him about possible side effects—and if it’s safe for you to take that drug. People with some health conditions may not tolerate certain drugs—so speak up right away if you have a history of allergies or other medical conditions.

Common Drug Allergy Symptoms

The most common drug allergies include aspirin, ibuprofen, antibiotics (penicillin), over-the-counter cold medicine, salicylates and NSAIDs. If you are taking any of these medications, there’s a chance that you could be allergic or have an intolerance. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from these allergies aren’t aware of them. For example, if you feel nauseous after taking aspirin but think it may be indigestion rather than your medication allergy symptoms, you may not ask your doctor about possible alternatives.

Fortunately, medical professionals can help with diagnostic tools such as blood tests and skin tests to identify possible allergies before serious side effects. Some common drug allergies symptoms include:

  1. Dizziness and feeling faint – After taking aspirin, ibuprofen or NSAIDs such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen).
  2. Stomach pain, vomiting, nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms after taking aspirin, ibuprofen or NSAIDs such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen). This can also lead to ulcers in your gastrointestinal tract that may require surgery if left untreated.
  3. Asthma attacks caused by salicylates like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Excedrin PM (aspirin plus diphenhydramine).
  4. Rash, hives, swelling of eyes/face/throat or itching if you’re allergic to latex.
  5. There is a sudden drop in blood pressure, light-headedness, and dizziness when certain antibiotics are taken; some drugs containing penicillin are amoxicillin, ampicillin, or tetracycline.
  6. Difficulty breathing from beta-blockers; these include atenolol and propranolol for high blood pressure and verapamil for hypertension/angina.
  7. Swelling and difficulty breathing
  8. Rashes or hives on cheeks, palms or arms if you have an allergy to sulphites found in wine or dried fruits like prunes.
  9. Metallic taste in mouth and confusion if you take antimalarial medications such as chloroquine or mefloquine.
  10. Burns and swollen lips, tongue, throat and face if you take isoniazid for tuberculosis (TB).

Recognizing Drug Allergy Symptoms

Many people don’t realize they have drug allergies until too late. If you’re taking medication—or if you’re about to start—it can be helpful to know if an allergy is possible. The first step in identifying these symptoms is having a clear understanding of your potential allergen(s). Common drug allergens include ibuprofen, penicillin, aspirin, antibiotics, sleeping pills and birth control.

Recognizing Drug Allergy Symptoms Often, drug allergies go undetected until a person experiences symptom of an allergic reaction. This can take anywhere from 24 hours to 72 hours after you’ve taken medication. Many signs can indicate an allergy, including swelling or difficulty breathing; hives; itchiness, tingling or numbness in your mouth; tightness in your throat or neck; stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea; low blood pressure; increased blood pressure heart rate; chest pain/tightness or wheezing.

You can also develop an allergy over time. If you’ve taken a drug that contains a specific ingredient, or if you’ve had an allergic reaction in the past, it doesn’t mean you can’t retake it. But it does mean that you need to be more vigilant about monitoring for symptoms of an allergic reaction.

How to Deal with Medicine Allergies

Everyone has experienced an adverse reaction to something at one point or another. For some, it’s an ice cream that doesn’t agree with their stomach, while others may have a panic attack after eating shellfish. These food-related allergies are unpleasant but rarely dangerous. However, adverse reactions can be more severe when it comes to medicine.

Many drugs contain chemicals that trigger allergic responses in certain people; these chemical ingredients are allergens. While you cannot avoid drug allergies entirely (allergy testing is required before receiving immunotherapy treatment), knowing what symptoms indicate a drug allergy is essential for preventing potentially life-threatening health issues. How to Deal with Medicine Allergies

Recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction – If you experience symptoms of a drug allergy, it’s essential to seek medical treatment immediately. The most common drug allergy symptoms include skin rash or itching, hives, swollen lips or face, difficulty breathing, itching or swollen eyes, and tightness in the chest that results in shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat.

Consult a healthcare professional for proper testing – If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction after taking medicine, it’s essential to consult your physician for allergy testing. Your doctor will review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and will ask questions about any previous allergic reactions you’ve experienced. If they suspect a drug allergy, they will order tests that include skin prick testing or intradermal testing; these tests help identify common allergens present in prescription drugs.

These are non-invasive forms of testing that generally cause minimal discomfort—although some people may feel slight itching or sting on their arms during their exam.

Ask your doctor if immunotherapy treatment is proper for you. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment designed to reduce your body’s sensitivity to specific allergens.


Allergic reactions to a medicine can be severe and even deadly. The fact that an allergic reaction is possible doesn’t mean it will happen, but it’s a risk you should be aware of as you make decisions about your health care. When in doubt, ask your doctor about what you’re taking—and if you think you have an allergy, don’t take that medication! Do not stop any prescribed medications without speaking with your doctor first.


1. What are allergies?

There are two types of allergies: food allergies and drug allergies, also known as medication allergies. Food allergies occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies a food protein as harmful. Drug allergies—also called medication allergies—occur when your body’s immune system misidentifies a medication as harmful; symptoms vary widely but often involve hives and other skin manifestations.

2. How do I know if I have an allergy?

If you think you may be experiencing a medication or food allergy, you must visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. You should not discontinue any medication without consulting with your physician first.

3. What is cross-sensitivity?

Cross sensitivity occurs when exposure to one allergen causes similar allergic response to another allergen, even though neither allergen has been consumed by the person who experiences allergies.

4. Are there tests that can confirm a medication allergy?

The only way to determine if you are genuinely allergic to medication is through testing.

5. How does my healthcare provider test for medication allergies?

Your healthcare provider will take a thorough medical history and run tests such as scratch tests and intradermal testing to detect and diagnose allergies.






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