Drug Allergy Testing Questions and Answers
The providers at Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Maryland evaluate patients with drug allergies of all ages. For more information, please call us or book an appointment online. We serve patients from Silver Spring MD, Ammendale MD, Takoma Park MD, College Park MD, Langley Park MD, and Rockville MD.
Prescriptions and medications can help us, but sometimes we experience unpropitious effects. When this happens, it is important to take note of what symptoms we are experiencing. Approximately 2-5% of people will experience an adverse reaction to prescription drugs, with higher rates seen in hospitalized patients.
What Is a Drug Allergy?
While any medication can cause side effects, some people can also have allergic reactions to specific medications. All medications, including prescription medications or over-the-counter medications, can trigger allergies in some people, although some types are more likely to cause allergies than others.
Allergies are not the same as side effects. You should also ask your pharmacist for advice if you buy over-the-counter medication as they can advise you about side effects and possible interactions with other medication that you are taking.
While any medication can trigger an allergic reaction, some are more likely to than others, including:
- aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- antibiotics — penicillin and sulfonamide antibiotics
- chemotherapy drugs for treating cancer
- medication for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
- corticosteroid creams or lotions
- medication for people with HIV
Of the listed medications, the two that commonly cause allergic reactions are sulfonamide antibiotics and aspirin.
After taking a medication, severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, is life threatening. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- difficult or noisy breathing
- swelling of the tongue
- swelling or tightness of the throat
- difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
- wheezing or coughing
- persistent dizziness or collapse
- paleness and floppiness in young children
- Before a severe allergic reaction, milder allergic symptoms that can occur include:
- swelling of the lips, face, eyes
- hives or welts
- tingling mouth
- abdominal pain and vomiting
After taking a medication, if you experience any of these symptoms you are at greater risk of having another severe reaction when taking the same medication. Although most people with these allergies are allergic to only one type of medication, it is possible to be allergic to more than one. If you are experiencing any allergies to medications, ask your doctor to refer you to a medical specialist, such as an allergist or immunologist.
If you are at risk of developing a severe allergic reaction, you should:
- have a severe allergic reaction action plan
- carry an adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen® or AnaPen®) to treat a severe allergic reaction
- wear medical identification jewellery as this will increase the chance that adrenaline will be administered in an emergency
- avoid medication (whenever possible) that may increase the severity of an allergic reaction or complicate its treatment, such as beta blockers
- seek urgent medical assistance
Can you be tested for drug allergies?
Yes, it is easy to receive an allergy test for drugs. At Allergy & Asthma of Maryland, we provide allergy testing for drugs and have helped determine allergies for a multitude of patients. Come in today to get your testing done!
How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Drug Allergy?
Doctors typically diagnose drug allergies via the use of a skin test. These tests are performed by placing a small amount of the suspected drugs and exposing them to the skin either by pricking the skin with a needle or placing it under a patch. When the skin reacts with a red, itchy or raised bump, then a reaction is clear.
If you or someone you know believes they might be allergic to a medication or drug, come to Allergy & Asthma of Maryland today! Our team of allergy specialists can help you determine if you are allergic! To get in touch with an expert, contact our office today. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call us or visit us online!