Virtually any drug can cause an allergic reaction. A drug allergy includes over-the-counter medications as well as prescription drugs. Reactions can range from minor to potentially life-threatening. In an allergic reaction, the body mistakenly identifies the drug as harmful and creates an immune response to fight it. This reaction causes histamine to be released in the body, which results in minor symptoms such as hives and rashes. More severe reactions may cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, fainting, rapid pulse and abdominal pain. Consult with a doctor if you experience any adverse side effects after taking a drug. In cases where you feel symptoms such as constricted breathing or if you experience a loss of consciousness, immediate emergency medical attention is best.
Common symptoms of drug allergic skin include:
Minor Reaction Skin rashes Itchiness and irritation Hives
Severe Reaction Difficulty breathing Swelling of throat or tongue Nausea Dizziness Fainting Diarrhea Rapid Pulse Abdominal Pain
Drug allergies can trigger a number of pathways, including the release of histamine and histamine-like substances from cells called ‘mast cells’ in the dermis. These cells have multiple receptors that permit the discharge of the products contained in tiny packages in the skin. When histamine is released into the bloodstream it causes blood vessels in the dermis to dilate, creating a red appearance and also causing water to leak into the skin, which produces swelling. There are various immunilogical mechanisms that may be triggered in the reactions.
Avoid soaps, especially bar soaps, as they will cause dry skin and may damage the skin barrier. Instead, opt for mild soap-free cleansers, preferably in liquid form. These cleansers will gently remove dirt, excess oil, bacteria and cosmetics without damaging the skin barrier.Be careful to limit contact with hot water, as this can actually dry out the skin further.Moisturizers help to restore and maintain the skin’s natural moisture levels. Look for a moisturizer specially designed for sensitive skin that is free of fragrance, dye or other allergens that may irritate the skin. Frequent application of moisturizers can help soothe dry and itchy spots.If itching is severe, do not scratch the affected area, as it can lead to scarring, increased pigmentation (darkening of the skin), thickening of the skin, or infection. Instead, gently pat the skin, or apply a damp compress for relief.
Overall, the best way to prevent allergic reaction is to identify and avoid the specific drug or medication causing the reaction. Before undergoing any type of medical treatment, make sure to inform your doctor of your allergy.Wearing a MedicAlert bracelet or carrying a card that identifies your allergy can be lifesaving in cases of emergency.
The most important step is to try and identify the drug causing the reaction. This is done by taking a careful history, examination and a variety of lab tests, that may occasionally help.
An oral antihistamine can often help reduce the symptoms of hives and rashes. These medications are effective in blocking the histamine receptors in the skin (which produce the symptoms).Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is considered one of the most effective medications for treating hives, but can cause drowsiness. A doctor may suggest non-sedating antihistamines such as Cetirizine (Zyrtec), Fexofenadine (Allegra) or Loratadine (Claritin)
A doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids to help relieve swelling redness and itching.