When a person’s body suffers a harmful adverse reaction to a medication that is intended to be beneficial, this is a drug allergy. It occurs because the body’s immune system identifies the drug as a harmful foreign substance and attacks it, kicking off an allergic reaction. In most cases, these allergies are mild and symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort but subside in a few days following the use of the medicine.
In severe cases, however, drug allergies can cause fatal reactions including anaphylaxis. In the majority of cases, once a person experiences an allergic reaction to a medication, it is best to avoid it. Some "allergies" such as penicllin can be related to a long past reaction and it is essential to test to define specific allergies at this time.
Awareness of drug allergies is essential when medical procedures are planned as these procedures can often be associated with many different chemical exposures.
Symptoms can include hives, rashes, blistering and other skin reactions including Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, coughing, shortness of breath, runny nose, fever, and other allergic reactions.
Just about any medicine can be a trigger for allergies, but the most common triggers include penicillin and related antibiotics, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, sulfas, anticonvulsant medications, hyperthyroid medication and some vaccines.
Drug desensitization is a means of treating drug allergies involving taking drugs in small but steadily increasing amounts until the necessary dosage is tolerable by the body with minimum side effects. It needs to be done under a physician’s close care, and the body will re-sensitize to the drug when the patient ceases taking it daily.
Penicillin allergy testing, as well as a variety of other drug testing procedures, is done using skin testing, usually via prick tests and Sub Q and oral graded challenges. These tests take a couple/few hours, and are done in the doctor’s office. They can provide definition of which drugs can or cannot be used. *This is important so that you can have the most appropriate antibiotic used for infections and hopefully less antibiotic resistance in the future.* Dr. Blessing-Moore and Dr. Maskatia are experienced at providing penicillin allergy testing, drug testing and drug desensitization for patients throughout San Mateo, Palo Alto and the surrounding region.
Definition and diagnosis of the specific drug sensitivity is essential. Drug reactions can be related to an intolerance of the drug or an allergy. If allergic, avoidance is number one. Desensitization is possible if a specific drug is needed. It is also essential to know how to treat the acute reaction and have medications available to treat the reaction (i.e. autoinjectable epinephrine) if needed. Action plans are essential.