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What's the difference between a drug allergy and a drug side effect?

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Having a bad side effect to a drug is common. It can be anything from a mild side effect (like upset stomach) to a serious problem (like damage to your heart). True drug allergies are different. When you have an allergy, your immune system is to blame. Your body mistakes something harmless -- like pollen, food, or a medicine -- for a hazard. Your immune system makes special cells and chemicals to fight it, which brings swelling and other symptoms.

From: Facts About Drug Allergies WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Medications and Drug Allergic Reactions: Tips to Remember."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Drug Reactions and Drug Allergies."

Levy, JH. , American Society of Anesthesiologists,  2005. Anaphylaxis and Adverse Drug Reactions

UpToDate: "An approach to the patient with drug allergy," "Rapid drug desensitization for immediate hypersensitivity reactions," "Drug Allergy: Classification and Clinical Features."

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: “Drug Allergy Overview.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 14, 2018

SOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Medications and Drug Allergic Reactions: Tips to Remember."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: "Drug Reactions and Drug Allergies."

Levy, JH. , American Society of Anesthesiologists,  2005. Anaphylaxis and Adverse Drug Reactions

UpToDate: "An approach to the patient with drug allergy," "Rapid drug desensitization for immediate hypersensitivity reactions," "Drug Allergy: Classification and Clinical Features."

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: “Drug Allergy Overview.”

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on April 14, 2018

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If I'm allergic to a drug, will I know it right away?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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