Any time you have a reaction to a prescription drug— even if you have taken the drug before with no adverse symptoms—you should immediately consult with the doctor who prescribed it. If this doctor believes your reaction might be allergy, they may refer you to an allergist for further evaluation and treatment.
Anaphylaxis, or a severe allergic reaction, is a life-threatening emergency. If you experience breathing difficulty, heart palpitations, severe swelling, dizziness, or fainting, call emergency services immediately, or have a friend or family member drive you to the nearest emergency room.
An allergist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. An allergist is specially trained to help you identify the underlying cause of allergies. They can also prescribe treatment to manage or prevent symptoms.
An allergist can perform tests, if necessary, to determine whether your reaction is allergy-related and, if so, to pinpoint its cause.
Determining exactly what is causing an allergic reaction can sometimes be a long and painstaking task. Be sure to give your doctor detailed information about your symptoms, how long you have had them, and if you have recently taken any new medications. This information can help your doctor determine the underlying cause of your reaction, as well as the best treatment. If your reaction is obviously drug-related, the process will be easier.
To get the most from your visit with the allergist, you can do the following:
- Bring a list of all your symptoms and when they began.
- Make a list of all treatments you have tried and whether they were successful.
- Bring a list of all medications and supplements you were using when you had the reaction. Include topical medications you put on your skin.
- Tell the doctor about any conditions you have, including other allergies.
It is important to prepare questions to ask the allergist, and to be prepared for questions that they will ask about your symptoms.
Questions to Ask the Allergist
To make sure you remember all the questions you want to ask your allergist, it is helpful to write them down. The following are some questions you might want to ask. Any others you have should be added to this list.
- Could my reaction be something other than allergy?
- Will I always have a negative reaction to this drug, or was this a onetime thing?
- What other drugs will I need to avoid?
- What if I react to the medication you are prescribing to treat the symptoms?
- What tests do you recommend?
- Are there any risks involved in allergy testing?
- Will my allergy go away over time?
Questions the Allergist Will Ask You
Your allergist will need complete information to make an accurate diagnosis. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- When did your symptoms start?
- Do you have these symptoms only after taking this particular drug?
- Do you have these symptoms every time you take this drug?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Have you ever had a reaction to any other drug? If so, what drug was it?
- Do you have any other allergies?
- What else are you taking (medications, vitamins, supplements, herbs)?
- Do you have any other medical conditions? If so, what are they?