What is a drug rash?
A drug rash is a breakout on your skin caused by a medicine.
Drug rashes are usually caused by an allergic reaction Overview of Allergic Reactions The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually reacts to and attacks bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. An allergy... read more to a medicine you're taking
You can get a drug rash from a medicine you swallow, put on your skin, or get as a shot
You'll get a rash or hives Hives Hives are red, itchy, raised patches on your skin. Hives usually come and go away completely, but sometimes they last a long time Allergic reactions often cause hives, but there are other causes... read more and have itching, peeling, or pain
If you don't know which medicine is causing the rash, your doctor may have you stop taking all your medicines for a while to figure it out
Drug rashes usually go away when you stop taking the medicine
Some drug rashes are serious enough to need treatment
What causes a drug rash?
A drug rash is caused by a medicine you're taking. There are many reasons this can happen. The most common include:
You have an allergic reaction to the medicine—this can happen even after you've been taking a medicine for a while
The medicine makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight
What are the symptoms of a drug rash?
Drug rashes can be mild or severe. They can happen within a few minutes of taking a medicine or after you've been taking it for weeks.
Mild redness on your skin with tiny bumps
Lots of peeling of your skin
Skin pain or itching
If you're having an allergic reaction to the medicine, you may have hives Hives Hives are red, itchy, raised patches on your skin. Hives usually come and go away completely, but sometimes they last a long time Allergic reactions often cause hives, but there are other causes... read more in addition to a runny nose, watery eyes, and wheezing.
How can doctors tell if I have a drug rash?
Doctors will examine your rash and ask you about all your current prescription and over-the-counter medicines. They'll have you stop the medicines most likely to have caused the rash to see whether the rash goes away. Sometimes, they'll test your skin or do a skin biopsy (taking out a little bit of the tissue to look at under a microscope).
How do doctors treat drug rashes?
Doctors treat drug rashes by:
Stopping the medicine that caused it—they may prescribe a different medicine instead
Having you use antihistamines and corticosteroid creams to lessen itching
Giving you medicine through your vein or by injection, if you're having a serious allergic reaction to the medicine