Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size

Drug Allergies: What to Expect From a Doctor

Doctors are very careful when diagnosing a drug allergy. Allergic reactions to drugs are different from more common drug side effects. Allergic reactions can also look like diseases.

What will happen at your doctor's office?

Recommended Related to Allergies

Seasonal Allergies: 4 Routes to Relief

Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening. But that "ah" can quickly become "ah-choo" if you're one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion -- all typical fall allergy symptoms -- can slow you down and make you miserable. While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of...

Read the Seasonal Allergies: 4 Routes to Relief article > >

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will carefully check you -- especially your skin, if you have a rash or hives.
  • Questions. Be ready to answer a lot of questions. Your doctor will want details about the medicines you've been using, your symptoms, and your health.
  • Blood tests. If you’ve had a serious skin reaction, your doctor may ask for these to be sure your organs are all working right or to look for other signs of a true allergy.
  • Other tests. Depending on your case, your doctor may need other tests, like a chest X-ray.
  • Treatment. If your symptoms are bad, your doctor will give you medicine to control the reaction.

Diagnosing and Managing a Drug Allergy

After the exam, your doctor may suggest:

  • Switching drugs. If your doctor is sure you are allergic to a drug, he or she will have you stop that drug and may switch you to a different medicine.
  • Allergy testing. If there's any doubt about whether you are truly allergic, your doctor may want you to have more tests. Keep in mind the tests don’t work for all drugs.
  • Trying to reduce your reaction. If switching drugs isn't an option -- and you must keep taking a drug for your health -- your doctor may suggest something called desensitization. You would get a small dose of the drug and then gradually raise it. The slow increase may get your body more used to the drug and cut your risk of an allergic reaction. It’s done in the hospital or doctor’s office. Desensitization is not a cure. It’s only temporary. It doesn't work for everyone and has risks.  But it's one way for you to keep getting a medicine you need.

Taking Care

If you have an allergy, your doctor will give you advice on how to protect yourself. Some good first steps include:

  • Memorize the name of the drug that you’re allergic to -- both brand names and generic. Make sure that all your other health care providers, dentists, and pharmacists know about your drug allergy.
  • Get a medical ID bracelet or necklace that states your drug allergy. Always wear it.
  • Know what to do if you have an allergic reaction. If your doctor prescribes medication -- like Auvi-Q or Epi-Pen (epinephrine shots) -- for emergencies, make sure you always carry two with you and know how to use it.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Do you think I have a true drug allergy or a drug reaction?
  • Do I need drug allergy testing?
  • What can I do to protect myself?
  • Am I more likely to be allergic to other drugs?
  • Can you help me come up with a plan to prevent problems in the future?

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 22, 2012

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

woman sneezing
Slideshow
Bottle of allergy capsules and daisies
Article
 
Urban blossoms
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Tools
woman with duster crinkling nose
Quiz