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Allergies Health Center

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Drug Allergies - Topic Overview

How is it treated?

If you have a reaction

Call 911 right away if you have trouble breathing or if you start to get hives.

If you have a severe reaction, your first treatment may occur in an emergency room. You may get an epinephrine shot to help you breathe. You may also get medicines, such as antihistamines and steroid medicines.

If you have a mild allergic reaction, over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines may help your symptoms. You may need prescription medicine if these don't help or if you have problems with side effects, such as drowsiness. Not all OTC antihistamines cause drowsiness.

Other treatment

The best thing you can do for a drug allergy is to stop taking the medicine that causes it. Talk to your doctor to see if you can take another type of medicine.

If you can't change your medicine, your doctor may try a method called desensitization. This means that you will start to take small amounts of the medicine that caused your reaction. Under your doctor's supervision, you will then slowly increase how much you take. This lets your immune system "get used to" the medicine. After this, you may no longer have an allergic reaction.

Staying safe

If you have severe drug allergies, your doctor may give you an allergy kit that contains an epinephrine shot. Your kit may also include an antihistamine. Keep your allergy kit with you at all times. Your doctor will teach you how to use it. If you have a serious allergic reaction, you may need to give yourself the shot, take the antihistamine, and get emergency medical treatment.

Be sure to wear a medical alert bracelet or other jewelry that lists your drug allergies. If you are in an emergency, this can save your life.

How can you care of yourself at home?

To take care of yourself at home:

  • Know which medicines you're allergic to, and avoid taking these medicines.
  • Keep a list of all medicines you are taking.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about any new medicines you are prescribed. Make sure they are not similar to those that can cause a reaction.
  • Don't use someone else's medicines or share yours.

If you do have a mild reaction, take steps to relieve symptoms such as itching. Take cool showers, or apply cool compresses. Wear light clothing that doesn't bother your skin. Stay away from strong soaps and detergents, which can make itching worse.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 30, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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