Medication Allergy


Medication used to treat illnesses can sometimes cause a variety of adverse reactions. One of these adverse reactions is medication allergy. Medication allergies occur to a wide variety of medications including antibiotics (e,g. penicillin), aspirin/NSAIDS, radiocontrast media, antiepileptic drugs, anesthesia medications anticancer drugs such as plantins and taxanes, and biological medications. Medication allergies can be very serious and even life-threatening. They may also limit treatment options, often necessitating the use of a medication with more side effects and less effectiveness. Recent studies show that most children who have a history of penicillin/amoxicillin allergy with only a skin rash will have negative skin tests, and oral challenges, and can tolerate penicillin and related medications such as amoxicillin in the future.


Symptoms of medication allergy include hives, swelling, wheezing, throat closing, and shock (low blood pressure). The symptoms may occur early immediately after administration, or hours to days later. Occasionally, drug allergies can cause dysfunction of internal organs (e.g. liver damage with elevated liver enzymes), as well as extensive skin damage.

Diagnosis and management

Diagnosis and management of drug allergies is very challenging. Diagnostic skin tests from manufacturers are only available for penicillin. Skin tests, as well as blood allergy tests are often not accurate. Sometimes reactions occur by non-allergic mechanisms, making allergy testing unhelpful (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, X-ray dye). Management includes avoidance, use of alternative agents, testing (often with samples of the medication that you have brought into the office), in-office drug challenges, and, rarely, drug desensitization within the hospital. Patients may also benefit from obtaining a medic alert bracelet describing the allergies.

Boise Valley Asthma and Allergy Clinic – We are always here for you

Your BVAAC board-certified allergist has received extensive training and has many years of experience in the management of drug allergy. If you or a member of your family have a severe medication allergy and need further guidance, feel free to give us a call today at 208-378-0080 or click the button below to make an appointment request online.

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