Symptoms of a true medication allergy vs adverse effects

Symptoms of a true medication allergy vs adverse effects

A drug allergy is the abnormal reaction of your immune system to a medication. Any medication- over-the-counter, prescription or herbal- is capable of inducing a drug allergy. A drug allergy is not the same as a drug side effect or adverse effect, a known possible reaction listed on a drug label. The majority of reactions caused by medications are adverse effects. True drug allergies are rare and are caused by an abnormal response of the immune system. 

Drug allergy signs and symptoms may include skin rash, hives, itching, fever, swelling, shortness of breath, wheezing, running nose, and itchy, watery eyes. Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening reaction to a drug allergy that causes the widespread dysfunction of body systems. Typically, adverse effects of drugs are more common and can be expected, whereas a true medication allergy is a rare, unexpected reaction.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 15). Drug allergy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 2, 2022

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

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