Condition: Drug and vaccine allergies

A drug allergy is an allergic reaction to medication that occurs when the immune system is incorrectly activated by a drug. Vaccine allergy is very rare. It is usually caused by allergy to an excipient in the vaccine, rather than the active ingredient.

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Drug allergy
causes and treatment

A drug allergy is an allergic reaction to medication that occurs when the immune system is incorrectly activated by a drug. All drugs can cause allergic reactions that range from skin rashes/hives/itching, skin swellings, a runny nose, itchy watery eyes to shortness of breath/wheezing and dizziness. Drug anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to a drug with reactions including:

  • tightening of the airways and throat/difficulties breathing
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea; dizziness/lightheadedness with a drop in blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness or even a cardiac arrest/death

The most common triggers include: penicillins (and other antibiotics), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), local anaesthetics (lignocaine) and general anaesthetics.

Initial treatment of a drug allergy requires discontinuation of the suspected drug and focus on relieving symptoms with antihistamines, corticosteroids and – in severe cases – adrenaline.

Drug allergy is diagnosed by an allergy specialist experienced in the management of various types of drug allergy. Diagnosis can include skin prick and intradermal tests with the relevant drugs; blood tests and a drug provocation (challenge) test where a small amount of the suspect drug is administered in a graded fashion under medical supervision.



Vaccine allergies

Vaccine allergy is very rare. It is usually caused by allergy to an excipient in the vaccine, rather than the active ingredient. An allergy specialist can diagnose this form of allergy, recommend safe alternatives and distinguish between allergic and non-allergic reactions. Skin tests with the relevant excipients/vaccines followed by a vaccine provocation test (challenge) can help confirm or rule out this diagnosis.


Condition overview
Drug and vaccine allergies

Drug and vaccine allergies Specialists

By having a complete and integrated team of sub-specialty experts under one roof we ensure that patients are seen by the right consultant at every appointment. Our skin health specialists cover a wide range of dermatological conditions, and our dedicated allergy specialists are recognised leaders in their field.