Only 5 to 10% of people have an allergic reaction to medicines, although people experience a wide variety of side effects when taking a medication. Allergic reactions can occur to either prescription medications or over-the-counter-medications, though in many cases medicines that can cause a severe allergic response are not sold without a prescription.
Note that drug allergies are different than drug interactions and drug intolerance. An interaction indicates an adverse reaction that can be caused by taking a drug with certain foods or other drugs. A drug intolerance is occurs when your body cannot properly process the drug due to genetic factors or possibly because of a resistance developed by taking the drug over time.
The most common drugs that people may be allergic to include:
- Antibiotics – especially penicillin and its relatives
- Insulin – especially those that come from animal sources
- Seizure medications
- Sulfa drugs (containing sulfonamide)
- Drugs or substances containing iodine
- Vaccinations (which may trigger egg allergies)
These following guidelines can help prevent allergic reactions to drugs and medicines.
- 1 Always tell your doctor about any previous reactions that you’ve had to specific medicines.
- 2 If you have a severe drug allergy, wear a medical bracelet that alerts others to the issue.
- 3 Be aware of the symptoms of allergic reaction: coughing, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, skin reactions, and trouble breathing.
- 4 Some vaccinations, such as certain flu vaccines, may have an egg base, which can trigger an egg allergies. Also, if you are allergic to latex, ask if a latex-free vial stopper is used.
- Consult a physician for signs of allergic reaction to medications.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet with details about known drug allergies.
- Tell your doctor about prior allergic reactions to drugs.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector if you have an anaphylactic reaction to certain drugs.