I Had an Allergic Reaction

And the pills I took
Made my fingers disappear *


I’m sure many of you are just gonna skip right over this post, because, you figure, BO-RING, who hasn’t had an allergic reaction at some time in their lives?

Well, if you stick around, smart-ass, I’ll tell you.

ME, that’s who!

True. I’ve never, ever had any kind of allergy or allergic reaction. Until yesterday.

Oh, I remember that day like it was yesterday. I’d taken a Celebrex, which my doctor prescribed for back pain and which I’d taken a few weeks before with no problem. After a couple of hours, my palms started to itch. Then my feet. Then everything. (If you’re wondering, “Everything, really?” Yes, everything. Really.)

I know you don’t know what I look like naked and for that, be grateful, but if you can, just imagine a woman ripping off her clothes, jumping from foot to foot, scratching every available area of flesh with both hands, a back scratcher, a hairbrush, and a cheese grater (surprisingly effective!)

I knew I should probably just take Benadryl, but I haven’t taken an antihistamine in years, and I remember that they made me hyper. Hyper is not a good look for me.

But neither are scratch marks, and I was starting to worry about scars. Also, my face (the only part that wasn’t itchy) was turning an alarming shade of tomato-soup red.

I called my pharmacist, who recommended Benadryl but was careful to cover his ass and make sure I OK’d it with my doctor first. So, I left a message with my doctor’s office; she was to call me right back.

“Right back” is a long time when you’re scratching yourself to death. I knew we had Benadryl, but I had to e-mail Dave to find out where he kept it, as it wasn’t in his medicine cabinet.

“It’s in my sock drawer.”

Um, OK. I thought maybe I’d find all kinds of contraband in this heretofore-unknown hiding place, but, no, just socks and Benadryl. BO-RING!

The directions, as with all medications, were crystal-clear.

Excitability may occur; marked drowsiness may occur.

Well, which is it? I’d kind of like to know. Am I going to pass out or start redecorating my house? It didn’t really matter. I had to stop itching, so I downed the pills.

About 15 minutes after I took the Benadryl, my doctor’s office called.

“Take Benadryl.”


As it turns out, I didn’t feel drowsy or excitable, but the itching stopped, thank God. Later, I Googled

“Celebrex, itching, side effects” and found a seemingly reputable site called Medicine Net. After the usual mile-long text block of side effects, I read

In the unlikely event you have a serious allergic reaction to this drug, seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction include: rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, trouble breathing.

If you think the allergic reactions sound bad, here are some “highly unlikely but very serious side effects”:

persistent stomach/abdominal pain, chest pain, one-sided weakness, slurred speech, sudden vision changes . . .

and, wait for it:

. . . vomit that looks like coffee grounds!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, man, if anything looking like coffee grounds came out of my stomach and through my mouth, that would be the end. I wouldn’t seek help, I’d just curl up on my bathroom floor and die of horror.

If you think you have had an allergic reaction:
  • Call your pharmacist, who will tell you to call your doctor. So, just call your doctor. Take it seriously—itching is one of the more humorous reactions, but some can be deadly.
  • You’re probably OK to take Benadryl. According to the bottle, people who have glaucoma, enlarged prostrate, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis should not take Benadryl. You might want to buy your own bottle, if your husband hides his in his sock drawer.
  • If you’re having trouble breathing or feel like your throat is closing up, skip the doctor and Benadryl and call 911 immediately.

* Today’s lyrics are courtesy of David Bowie.

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37 Responses to “I Had an Allergic Reaction”

  1. 1 Kathy

    Oh J.D., so sorry to hear of your trauma, but it made me laugh my ass off, so some good came of it.

    I hate those warnings about “may make you drowsy or excitable.” I don’t understand that!!!

    Glad you’re better now. You are better now, aren’t you?

  2. 2 Joanne

    Oh man, this reminds me of the really serious allergic reaction i had last year. Hives all over and non-stop scratching…afterwards, my friends teased me and said my arms and legs looked like i ran through the bushes naked or something. The scratches healed but what an unpleasant experience! I still am unsure what triggered the reactions…oh dear.

  3. 3 JD

    Hi, Kathy: I was laughing, too, as I scratched, so, yes, it wasn’t all for nothing! Y’know, either it’s a weird coincidence that I caught the flu one hour after the itching stopped, or these aches and pains and general gross feelings of sickness are all part of the allergic thing (I’m thinkin’ the latter). Oh, well. Unlike poor Joanne, at least I know what caused it. YUK!

  4. 4 JD

    Joanne: running thru the bushes naked is a hilarious (and painful-sounding) image that I wish I could retro-steal and use in this post! How long did it last? Sounds awful–especially the hives, which can be scary ‘cuz you can get them INSIDE too. Brrrr. Let’s all be healthy now, shall we?

  5. 5 Stephanie

    Dear JD:
    Was just Googling “Does Celebrex make your palms itch?” and came across your recent blog. All I have to say is “ME TOO!’ I never have had an allergic response to anything until yesterday, when I took Celebrex for my back, and w/in 30 minutes, felt itching on the palms of my hands/soles of my feet like CRAZY, then spread to everywhere on my body (particularly lymph node areas like armpits/back of ears/’bikini line’) I was going f-ing NUTS! Of course, Dr. not around, so I called my pharmacy which wasnt any help (said it must have been something other than the Celebrex even though I hadnt taken anything else…!). Took a Benedryl on my own which finally stopped the madness. Anyway, just wanted to write, and tell you, you are not alone!

  6. 6 JD

    Oh, my GAWD! That’s crazy. I saw my doc the other day, and she seemed incredulous that the Celebrex could’ve caused it. She kept asking me about a rash, but there was no rash, just the HORRIFYING itching! She truly thought it was something else (but what????) and actually had me almost convinced to try it again and see. Now I’m glad I didn’t. Did you feel anything after the itching stopped? I felt really sick—kind of flu-y and achy. It’s too bad, because when I’d taken it before, it really helped. My orthopedist gave me some samples of Naproxin—have you ever tried that? I think it’s like Super-Alleve. That might be worth looking into.

    God, that’s weird! And you described it perfectly!

    Glad you’re OK now!

  7. 7 Deb

    I just googled the same thing!! Reason being, it happened to me too! I was prescribed Celebrex, took it daily for 2 weeks, called in a refill but didn’t pick it up for a week. Got home and took one, within 30 minutes my palms were itching like CRAZY! Next the bottom of my feet! Minutes later my throat felt tight, I got up to tell my son not to leave the house and was dizzy and sweating! He called the clinic, I had already taken benedryl, they told him to bring me in. By time I arrived I was itching so much I had to be taken directly to an exam room because I didn’t want anyone to watch me!! I did have what appeared to be a rash/hives. The doctor asked me about medications, only on I had taken was Celebrex. She said I must be allergic even though I’d taken it previously with no side effects. I was given a steroid shot and within 30 minutes was back to normal.

  8. 8 JD

    Wow, Deb, your reaction was much worse than mine. I just had the intense itching. I’m glad you’re OK–thank goodness your son was on top of things.

    Since my reaction, I’ve taken the plunge and tried Celebrex again: no itching. No problems at all. I still think I am allergic, tho, and won’t be at all surprised if I have another reaction. But I always have the Benadryl handy!

    Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder how many more “Celebrex + itching” Googlers we’ll get here!

    JD’s last blog post..I Had Surger . . . a Procedure so you don’t have to

  9. 9 Chris

    So funny how it always seems to start the same… first the palms, then the soles of the feet. I am severely allergic to Aleve. About 30 minutes after I swallowed the pill the itching started. I was going nuts!! Took a benadryl as well, but my throat started tingling and my lips went numb. I had a friend drive me to the emergency room ASAP. By the time I got there my throat had started swelling shut. They wanted tme to fill out paperwork!!! That still makes me crazy when I think of it. they gave me more benadry – through the IV and adrenaline. I was a wreck after that drug cocktail, but the itching stopped. Thank God!!!

  10. 10 JD

    Chris:Welcome! And thanks for chiming in with your horrifying allergy story. My doctor thought I was crazy when I described the itching palms–she kept asking me if I was sure it wasn’t the tops of my hands that itched. That’s REALLY scary about your reaction. I was lucky to have suffered just the itching, tho I did feel kind of horrible after taking the Benadryl. Glad to hear you survived!

    JD’s last blog post..I Play the Telephone Game so you don’t have to

  11. 11 Cinder Block

    I have the exact same thing: palms itching like crazy. But i also have hives and sore swollen throat and tongue and itchy bumps on my scalp. Allergist took one look at me and said DRUG ALLERGY. Never had an allergic reaction in all my 46 years until now. She said I have probably DEVELOPED an allergy to aspirin. She had the same thing happen to her, same symptoms. I have felt a ton better since I switched to Tylenol. Remember aspirin is in things like Alkaselzer and Bufferin etc. . .Other common drug allergies include Pain Killers, Anti-convulsants (like Neurontin) and Antibiotics. My allergist said that it is more likely to develop an allergy to aspirin and pain killers than anything though. I thought I was allergic to leaf mold and was about to put my house on the market. Thank god I went to an allergist- there is something to be said for going to specialists. My general practitioner missed the diagnosis.

  12. 12 Cinder Block

    Just wanted to add that the night before I went in for my allergy test that I had to go to the ER because my symptoms were horrible due to not being able to take antihistamines. They gave me an Epi-pen to jab myself with if my throat started swelling up in the night. These allergies are nothing to mess around with – you can asphyxiate! At the worst I felt like I had been beaten up – welts/hives all over my body & sore swollen throat/tongue, chest pains on & on. I wonder if hormones have any bearing on suddenly developing allergies because I also just entered into peri-menopause. Thanks for all the postings, it’s nice to know I’m not alone!

  13. 13 JD

    Cinder Block! Thank you so much for commenting and for all the great information. This allergy stuff is new to me, too! Your reaction sounds horrible! I don’t think I could sleep at night, worrying that my throat would close up–even if I had an Epi-pen. I’d insist on being hospitalized!

    You raise a really interesting point about hormones. It does seem very strange that neither of us had a reaction at all until our mid-40s.

    Thanks again for writing. I’m so glad you found the answer and didn’t have to sell your house . . . or die!

    JD’s last blog post..I Have Google-Induced Brain Damage so you don’t have to

  14. 14 Julie

    This is an older blog, but I just stumbled upon it in my desperate search for allergy solutions. Reading this 1) helped distract me from the itching 2) made me realize that I really need to buy some Benadryl and 3) made me feel a little better knowing that I wasn’t making my symptoms up. I took an aleve about an hour ago, then my palms started to itch badly and my throat started to tighten up. One symptom I have that no one else mentioned is an intense pressure in my ears. Anyway, I guess since I am benadryless, I will simply have to wait out my symptoms, breath deeply and not itch. The itching has moved to my neck and scalp which is horrible, but I will persevere.

  15. 15 JD

    Julie: Wow, I hope you’re feeling better by now. Benadryl seems to be the magic potion, so definitely stock up. Yeah, the scalp itching is pretty bad, but it’s all tolerable, as long as you know it’s just an allergic reaction and it will pass. But the throat-tightening is a symptom I didn’t have, and one everyone should be very careful with.

    I hope you come back to let us know you’re OK.

    JD’s last blog post..I Have a Crush on a Cartoon so you don’t have to

  16. 16 Brenda

    I was looking over all the messages over this drug I too am suffering the same thing but I had told the doctor who gave me the drug I can not take sulfer medication and this drug stated if your allergic to sulfer do not take and because I go to a free clinic and they gave it to me there was no print out on the side effects. I will try the over counter med and if that dont work then to the hospital. If I was all of you might get checked out for a reaction to sulfer medications because that is what sulfer does to you makes you ich so bad and swell up. Best regards to you all and any one who else goes through this.

  17. 17 JD

    Brenda: Hello and welcome. I’m sorry your allergy problems brought you here. I’ll definitely check out the sulfur allergy thing. This is the ONLY time I’ve ever had such a reaction—I’ve even taken Celebrex since this and had no problem. Good luck!

  18. 18 Tess

    I just started celebrex two days ago, and thought I was going mad. I have had MINOR itching with some pain meds, usually Lortab. I have never had itching this bad. For me though my itching started all over, it wasn’t until a few hours later that my hands started to itch, just before bed mind you. I can’t take benedryl. So I used hydrocortizone cream to help with the itching. It was interesting what was said about hormones, I’m only 37, but have intered peri-menopause as well. I’m not going to take Celebrex again and I’m not really sure what I will be able to take for my fibromyalgia it looks like it will be tylenol. I sure hope it helps! Thanks for all of the information! Tess

  19. 19 JD

    Tess: Thanks for stopping by to share your story. It’s interesting how many people are having this reaction. I hope you’re able to find some relief. I was able to take Celebrex again without any reaction—but it wasn’t nearly as effective.

  20. 20 JP

    I came upon this site as I was looking for ‘duration of symptoms to allergic reactions of meds’- mine was to an anti inflammatory med called Diclofenac and this site was full of info that I was looking for, including the perimenopause link! I had never had a reaction to anything either but after 3 days on this med I broke out in severe hives, swelling of the throat, throwing up, heart palpatations, loss of voice after 3 days of symptoms and flu like symptoms before the onslaught of hives, horrible horrible hives. Benadryl didn’t do anything for me except make me sleep through the mild parts of the itching. After 4 days of no relief I called my primary and he suggested I take Zyrtec- a second generation anti-histamine- and that helped with the itching TREMENDOUSLY!!!! It didn’t make me drowsy-if that’s what you want to call being knocked out- either.
    Thank you all for enlightening me on the realities and duration of an allergic reaction because my doc too said that he didn’t know anyone who ever had an allergy to this medication and couldn’t quite believe that it wasn’t caused by something else and should be in my system for only 3 to 4 days. It’s been 5 days now and I still feel like I have the flu and had to leave work early today.
    I did not go to the emergency room but if I had to do it over again I absolutely would have gone to the ER, by ambulance though so I wouldn’t have to deal with the paperwork until after I was looked at. ; > )
    Good luck to all and I now convinced that hormones do have a lot to do with the fact that we have all had reactions to things we never did before. : > )

  21. 21 JD

    JP: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. When I wrote this post, I had no idea so many people would find it by searching for related symptoms. Hormones! Is there nothing we can’t blame on them?!

  22. 22 JP

    Apparently not!
    Still itching and still SO SO tired!

  23. 23 JD

    JP: Oh, no! And your symptoms were a lot more serious than mine. Yes, if it happens again, definitely go to the ER, that closed-up throat thing is my worst nighmare and nothing to mess around with.

    I had flu-like symptoms too but only after I took the Benadryl. And those symptoms lasted maybe 2 days. I didn’t feel terrible, just tired and flu-y.

    Should you call your doctor again? It’s been what, 5, 6 days? That’s too long.

    Let me know what happens! I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you feel better on your own SOON, but if you don’t, make that call.

  24. 24 Maija Haavisto

    It was indeed most likely sulfa allergy. There are other drugs similar to celecoxib that are not sulfa drugs like etoricoxib, but sadly they aren’t available in the States.

  25. 25 Bill

    Thanks for posting this – you are the only post I’ve seen to describe almost exactly what I experienced. The standard info on the med websites just gave the generic warnings. Like you, I had taken Celebrex for about a month without problems. I set it aside for several months and came back to it several different times without a problem.

    Then, I had a reaction involving the red, itchy palms and spreading itch, including onset of hives – all treated with benadryl, but un-nerving as heck when it happened. I thought it was due to a new food item because I had searched the web and could not find anything that came close to what I experienced associated with Celebrex and I had taken it for a month or so before with no ill effects.

    I took Celebrex again several weeks after the first reaction and had the same. somewhat more intense reaction. I searched the web again and found your post, which is too close to what I experienced. It was definately the Celebrex causing my allergic reaction. Benadryl worked again, but it took longer and more of it to counteract the effect. I won’t be taking Celebrex again.

    I’ve got to say that the Celebrex was probably the most effective anti-inflammatory I’ve ever taken before the allergic reaction. I am sorry I won’t be able to take it any more.

  26. 26 JD

    Bill: Thanks for commenting! Wow, I’m glad I posted this. I had no idea there would be others out there experiencing the same thing. And all our doctors thinking we’re crazy. Before the reaction, Celebrex worked really well for me, and I’m bummed I can’t take it anymore. Now I’m taking Vicodin. No allergic reactions, just addiction. Yay?

  27. 27 donnie webb

    i have arthiritis in my left .the leg was broken 20 years ago also cartlidge was removed .i was in bad pain on monday so i took 1celebrex .the next morning my face was red as a tomato.i was itching all over. it was still bad tuesday night with chillsall night it is slowly getting better with benydrl.i will never take anymore.it came as samples from the doctor

  28. 28 Eddie

    Thats horrible, I once had the same thing happen with naproxen, no bueno. And as for the coffee grounds, wtf, really? That would scare the shit out of me, so random.

  29. 29 JD

    Eddie: I know, why coffee grounds? I’d rather have mind-numbing back pain for the rest of my life than even once throw up coffee grounds.

  30. 30 Anita

    i was prescribed celebrex for my TMJs (jaw joints) i am a medical student and i had been taking celebrex for over a year, i was given a new batch of the medicine by my consultant. i took it and unknown to me, i experienced the itching of palms, it then spead to my scalp my face went red and ballloned up, my chest, my stomach my arms, every part of me went red and was covered in a rash, i was finding it hard to breathe and had abdomincal pain, i called 999. the paramedics were let into my univeristy room to give me oxygen to asisst my breathin as my airways has swelled, and i was taken to a and e and given piriton and a cannula was inserted in my hand in case they needed to give me IV adrenaline…

    at this time noone knew wat has caused the allergic reaction..

    .. two weeks after i took the celebrex again for the pain in my jaw joints and again the same happened..

    again i experienced the rash, the redness all over my body, my face ballooned, my airways swelled, i had very severe abdominal pains, i went to the bathroom n it was here i collapsed due to the pain, it took me around 10mins to crawl bak to my room to call 999 and again the paramedics were let in and i was taken to hospital, my blood pressure was dangerously low and i was put on a drip to get it back up, i was put on a nebuliser to help with my breathing, after these 2 events we worked out it was the celebrex to blame and i threw them out straight away and informed my GP and consultant

  31. 31 JD

    Anita: Oh, my GOD! This is terrifying. At first I was thinking, Why did she take Celebrex a 2d time, but obviously you didn’t realize that was the cause of the first reaction. That is a damn scary story, and I’m so glad you made it thru OK. I took Celebrex again after my first reaction (because I’d taken it before with no problem), but even tho I didn’t have another reaction, I never felt good about taking it. I betchya it’ll be off the market pretty soon, just like Vioxx.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  32. 32 sue

    oh my gosh I was shocked to read the stories some 3 yrs later! I was prescribed celebrex for chronic back pain. Never in the yr and a half did I have problems, that was until 2 days ago. Took celebrex 30 mins later took a benadryl was ok for an hr then all hell broke loose! First burning itchy palms then scalp and arms. I started getting hives all over even inside my ears and mouth. I started having trouble breathing so my fiance rushed me to the hospital…and of course the made me wait. While waiting the burning and itching intesified 1000% my heart was pounding in my chest and I had involuntary leg movement. Finally got called back for my vitals. Temp was normal so they disreguarded the fact my heart rate was 149 bpm sitting still. They sent me to wait again. The new symptom became light headed and stomach cramps. Finally saw a nurse told her I was dizzy and couldnt breathe she checked my lungs said no problem and threw me in a room to wait again…..I was sitting on the edge of the bed talking to my Fiance when I lost consiousness the first time for about 30 seconds. He ran out for help and I lost consiousness a 2nd time..still no nurse until he started dropping the “F” bomb at the top of his lungs. I was half in the bed half off…the next thing I remember is getting hooked up to an EKG, getting oxygen (my o2 sat dropped to 80%) and getting an IV. I was in and out of consciousness multiple times and my blood pressure dropped to 60/34. They pumped me full of Prednisone until I came out of the danger zone. I spent 5 hrs getting treated. I just wanted to share my story for those who just wait out the symptoms. Some are more severe some less but NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF AN ALLERGIC REACTION!!Im positive I would have died had I not gotten even the rotten medical attention that I did. Hope this helps someone out there :)

  33. 33 JD

    sue: Oh, my GAWD! I’m appalled at the terrible care you received from that ER/hospital!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. Yes, VERY important: don’t let those symptoms go too long without seeking help. I had one hand on the phone, waiting to see if I felt the least bit inability to breathe. Luckily that didn’t happen, but if it had, I would’ve been calling 911. Geez. Glad you’re OK!

  34. 34 Becky

    O my gosh! I had the very same thing happen to me today. I feel lucky to be breathing. I took an Aleve and 15/20 minutes later my ears, eyes,throat started itching. I had taken the Aleve for a headach. Thought I was coming down with something. I drove myself to Kroger to get some benedryl and wasn’t really concerned until I got in the checkout..I busted the benedryl out of the pack and took two before I paid for it…….I was starting to panic. I drove myself to the er. Face was red as a tomato and so swollen I could see it myself without looking in a mirror. I didn’t even have to say a word when I got to the er. They hollered “drug reaction” and pulled me back. Gave me epeniferine (sp) and breathing treatment. I am so thankful to be here. My airpassage was oonstricted once I got to the er. SCARY! I will not take another Aleve; ever. Thank you for posting this and I am glad you are ok:-)

  35. 35 Bill

    I had the same reaction to Naproxen. Will not touch Aleve. I wish I could due to arthritus in knee.

  36. 36 JD

    Becky: OMYGOD! That is truly terrifying. Aleve? I suppose people can have an allergic reaction to anything. Wow, I’m so glad you were able to get yourself to the ER and they didn’t make you wait and fill out paperwork. Thanks for sharing your story. Geez, do we all need to carry epinephrine kits now?

    Bill: Yikes. You guys are scaring me. I hope you find some pain relief for your knee.

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