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Allergies Health Center

Symptoms of a Drug Allergy

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You may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Hives -- itchy, bumpy, irregular patches on the skin
  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Swollen face, lips, or tongue
  • Wheezing

Most drug allergy symptoms start right after you take the drug, but some may take hours, days or weeks to appear.

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When Symptoms Are Severe

A serious, widespread allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. It may affect skin, airways, and organs. It also happens very quickly after taking a drug, often within minutes or seconds.

Anaphylaxis is an emergency and is life-threatening. Symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing or throat feels like its closing
  • Confusion
  • Cramping
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Hives covering much of the body
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shock or unconsciousness

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911. Use an epinephrine shot if you have one, and take antihistamines to help slow down the reaction. Even if the reaction goes away, you still need to go to the hospital.

Mild Drug Allergy: What You Should Do

Depending on your situation, your doctor may suggest that you:

  • Stop taking the drug. This may be enough to make symptoms go away. Remember that your doctor needs to know if you stop taking a prescribed medication.
  • Take an antihistamine, like Benadryl (diphenhydramine).
  • Use a prescription medication. Your doctor may want you to take a steroid medicine.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stanley M. Fineman, MD, MBA on October 17, 2014

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