An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, in this case a medication, which triggers an allergic reaction. Sensitivities to drugs may produce similar symptoms, but do not involve the immune system.

  • Symptoms of adverse drug reactions include cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches.
  • Skin reactions (i.e. rashes, itching) are the most common form of allergic drug reaction.
  • Contrary to popular myth, a family history of a reaction to a specific drug typically does not increase your chance of reacting to the same drug.

All medications have the potential to cause side effects, but only about 5 to 10% of adverse reactions to drugs are allergic. The chances of developing an allergy are higher when you take the medication frequently or when it is rubbed on the skin or given by injection, rather than taken by mouth.

Certain medications are more likely to produce allergic reactions than others. The most common are:

  • Antibiotics, such as penicillin
  • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy
  • Chemotherapy agents

If you have a history of reactions to different medications, or if you have a serious reaction to a drug, the physicians at Bernstein Allergy Group are trained to diagnose the problem and help you develop a plan to protect you in the future.

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