House CallOct/Nov 2009 Issue

Pediatric Allergist Question & Answer

Pediatric allergists Harvey L. Leo and Neal Jain answer questions about allergies and food sensitivities.

Unlike allergies to food and airborne substances, family genetics do not appear to play a role in medication allergies. Even when multiple family members report having an allergy to a particular drug, there’s no greater likelihood that others in that family will develop a similar reaction. An important exception is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare and potentially life-threatening reaction to certain drugs, usually sulfa-containing antibiotics or epilepsy medicines (although other medications can also cause this condition). There’s some evidence that patients who develop SJS may have a certain gene in their immune system that predisposes them to this type of reaction. SJS aside, many medication allergies are “outgrown” or lost over time, even in adults. Testing (albeit difficult for certain types of drugs) often reveals that patients are no longer allergic.

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