Just Lost a Week of Life – Turns Out… I’m Allergic for Antibiotics

I just found out that I'm allergic for a certain type of antibiotics; Amoxicillin. And I found out the hard way, loosing a full week in the painful process. From now on, I'll have to carry a note saying what medication I cannot have, as the next time I get an attack after taking these kind of meds, I might not be so lucky that I can write a blog post about it.

As the effects of the allergy were so impact full, and at first I didn't pay too much attention to these, I decided to document the way I went through the week to remember me taking better care of myself next time. Most important, I NEED to give a giant shout out to my wife Fiona, as she was picking me and the 3 kids up. Unbelievable..!

But more important, there might be more people out there in search of how to respond to a sudden outburst of hives, flames in their skin or sudden cramps in their hands and if you just started on Amoxicillin, you might want to seek medical help.

Why take Amoxicillin

But first, what was the reason to take an antibiotic in the first place. Mr. D, now 4 years old, is on the schedule to get his tonsils removed. It will hopefully help him to get some better sleep. Running up towards the date of the operation, we found ourselves with some severe coughing people in the house. For already 1.5 week both my wife F and I were coughing, where it turned out to be a beginning lung infection for F. The doctor was so kind to prescribe some medication for us. That's where it all started...

From Wikipedia:

Amoxicillin and amoxicillin-clavulanate are recommended by guidelines as the first-choice drug for bacterial sinusitis (Sinusitis or rhinosinusitis is inflammation of the paranasal sinuses. It can be due to infection, allergy, or autoimmune issues. Most cases are due to a viral infection and resolve over the course of 10 days.)

Taking a first dose of Amoxicillin - Day 0

amoxicillinIt was Friday afternoon when I first took one of the large pills. Hoping my cough will be going away soon, I spent a nice evening with the family and a late night walk with F to top off the week. Before going to bed, I popped another one of these pills, since I was on a 2x per day schedule.

It started to appear to me that the skin on my hands started to itch. I didn't pay too much attention to it, since I just came back from a long week at work, and a busy weekend and next week ahead of us. Still, it suddenly came up, where I hardly could stop myself from scratching my fingers, especially the knuckles.

Day 1 - Busy Saturday

Our Saturdays are always very busy with kids sports and swim lessons. But this Saturday was extra busy with a family member from The Netherlands returning. This meant airport, saying goodbye and driving back and forth with the whole family.

So keep on schedule, waking up was not that hard and all the morning activities went on auto pilot. A quick breakfast with another one of those large pills made me ready to go. Although the pain in my hands was becoming worse, I had a job to do and didn't want to make others worried.

While we went for coffee in Burlingame before racing to the airport, the itchy feeling in my fingers and the palms of my hands was becoming more severe, where I just had to scratch and scratch the skin of inside and the top of my hands.

While driving back from the airport, my wife started calling the doctors office to get advice how to proceed. Obviously the first advice I got was: Stop taking more of the Amoxicillin pills. To stop the rash and the itching skin, I could just buy some Benadryl, an over the counter allergy medicine.

And stubborn as I am, even after the kids swim lessons and my hands were swollen and red, and other parts of my body began to break out, I didn't seek a doctor directly. My wife drove me to a weekend medical center to see a doctor, but he/she was not there for the Saturday afternoon. Later that night I tried to visit a night clinic, but it was closed as well..So we went into the first night with more severe itching and burning sensation over about 30% of my skin.

Day 2 - ER Sunday

Waking up Sunday was no fun. I immediately knew I needed to see a doctor fast. The skin on my hands was burning, and if I used my hands, it felt the skin would burst or crack. My face had started to show red hives and was itching like crazy. The first couple of red spots started to show up on my legs, which came with an increase in temperature as well. Overall, I felt like I had been lying on the beach for a good day in the blazing sun.

ER visit UCSF

Luckily it was so early on a Sunday morning, that I was the first and only one in the emergency care facility. However, after a quick examination, and some discussion, I was sent home with a single dose of Prednisone to combat the allergic reaction. As it said in my discharge papers: "You should not take augmentin in the future or PCN equivalent medication...It will likely take a couple of days to resolve the rash because of the longer half life of the antibiotic you were given".

So off I went home to hang out on my bed, trying to sleep a little and trying to help my wife, who was stuck with the 3 kids. But without hands, any husband is useless! Later that day my legs were beginning to show many more red spots, and my face was just completely red like I had been heavily sunbathing.

Amoxicillin allergic reaction red spots on skin

I thought it would have been done. I went to the ER, got some more medication to counter the allergy, so I must go up from here! Besides, it has been more than 24 hours since I took the last of the Amoxicillin. Little did I know yet the worse was yet to come...

Day 3 - Moving Monday

Red spots from allergy of AmoxicillinWith Monday breaking the week open, I had good hope the Prednisone from the hospital would have done the job. It would be an important and busy day at the office, where we would move into a new office with all the festivities and fun that would come with it. Although my hands were still cramped, swollen and itchy, the rest of my body on fire, I dropped my kids off at school, and joined the rest of the company for the move. The comments were as expected, everybody thought I had been lying on the beach for the full weekend and thought I had a little bid too much sun over those days. Having to explain myself that the red color in my face was from an allergic reaction to Amoxicillin was not too hard, I just had to lift up one of my sleeves of my pants to showcase the red spots on my feet and legs which had become much worse.

After just have moved into the new office, a light lunch and some email work, I threw in the towel. The itchy feeling, hot flashes and skin burn was just becoming to much. I had to get out of there so bad. By the minute it started to get worse, so I quickly packed my stuff and got home as soon as I could to go rest on my bed.

As soon as my wife saw me, she started calling with the doctors office to discuss my condition. We managed to get a new appointment to see the doctor and discuss what the next step would be. After arriving, the doctor herself looked surprised and concerned I had broken out so badly. Immediately she wrote me a prescription for 9 days of Prednisone medication. Next to the meds to combat the allergy, there were also drugs to avoid a heavy itchy skin; Hydroxyzine.

Prednisone to bring down Amoxicillin allergy

With the comment by the doctor that Prednisone is somewhat a magic pill for the allergic reaction I got, I had hope again I would be back in business within a day or so.

Day 4 - Tuesday with Meetings

Tuesday I wished I could have stayed at home from the start. short sleep, constant itching skin, and a red, puffy face were not the ideal circumstances to go into work. But with a meeting planned with people from out of town, it's a no-go in my book to cancel at the day itself, where people have been flying in for seeing you.

Just for the one meeting I ran into the office. The Prednisone was barely doing its work, where constant hot flashes were indicating I was running a fever, while the itch was now over more than 60% over my skin.

Immediately after the meeting I left for home, and fully expected to recover fast, as it has been already more than a couple of days since I took the Amoxicillin, and I had been more than 24 hours on Prednisone. The magic pill should be doing its job by now.. right? Nope!

Day 5 - Worst Wednesday

severe Amoxicillin allergy red skin
Wednesday proofed to become the worst day so far. After just 2-3 hours of sleep due to the fever, itching skin and restlessness, it became clear the thing was not over yet, long from it. 80% of my skin was showing a rash, little bumps and was looking like it was burned from the sun or a bad acne. My legs were completely red, where the skin on my hands was about to crack.

The day was spent in bed, but it was strange. Normally when you're sick, you would like to sleep, or not eat. Now, my brains worked as best I could expect on a couple of hours sleep, I had a healthy appetite, the only discomfort was that I had the hot flashes and the itchy skin everywhere by now.

Still, this was not the worse. The night from Wednesday to Thursday would proof the worse time. There were times I was laying in my bed ready to scratch my skin off my flesh so bad was the itchy feeling. There were times I wanted to lay in a bathtub full with Aloe vera lotion to cool my skin down.

I had taken 3 sleeping aid pills, all the Hydroxyzine I was allowed to, but nothing could take down the burning of my skin which was so badly itching me. I ended up to stay the full night awake, not because I wanted, but simply because I couldn't sleep of the bad feeling on my skin. And it doesn't help either that one of the side effects of Prednisone is: Insomnia...

Day 6 - Tired Thursday

Finally at around 5 am I couldn't take it anymore, and took a cold shower for 45 minutes. If only I could get away from the itchy feeling on my skin all over my body for 5 minutes, I would have been thankful.

I don't remember too much of the Thursday morning. So tired and wanting to feel better, I slowly fell into a state of unconsciousness. Half-awake, vs half asleep, I just didn't care anymore if my skin was itching. I could feel it, and it drove me mad, but finally there was a feeling of acceptance.

I managed to get some rest in the morning, where in the afternoon we paid the doctor another visit. Finally the redness of my skin was retreating, where the legs were first showing an improvement. Later it proofed the symtoms on my skin were moving upwards, where the legs were the worst on Tuesday, my Torso bad on Wednesday & Thursday. So the face comes on Friday?

Day 7 - Fuzzy Friday

At least I could sleep better. Still lot of itchy feeling on my chest and shoulders making it hard to fall asleep, but when I woke up on Friday morning, there was real improvement. At least to the skin on my torso. A new thing has popped up, and I instantly felt it opening up my eyes. That didn't feel the same as normal!

Looking at myself in the mirror when I woke up was scary. I could have sworn I was staring in the face of somebody who just had a long night of drinking behind him. At least 3 bottles of bad whiskey was starring me back in my face...Picture below was from a couple of hours later, so just imagine those eyes 5 times worse!

Puffy Eyes

But this I could handle, as long as these sacks under my eyes were not permanent! The skin was looking much better, where the legs were almost back to normal. Still the chest and the shoulders were itching, but long from  as bad as the two days before. My skin felt like I had been sunbathing for at least 2 weeks in the south of France, and started to peel off. Oh great new signs of this thing not over yet!

Day 8 - Road to Recovery Saturday

Finally on Saturday, yesterday, I could say that the rash on my skin was under control. The eyes were still puffy, and the skin in my face and ears were clearly showing there was a new one coming underneath, but the redness was gone for 80%.

Peeling skin due to Amoxicillin allergy

For a couple of days more, I will need to take the Prednisone pills, as we are building down the number of pills I'm taking per day. I'm sure all the other signs of this bad reaction to Amoxicillin will disappear with the next couple of days.

Lessons learned

While I was laying around, scratching my back, a couple of things have become clear to me which I tried to remember for this blogpost.

Skin - your largest Organ

I research a number of aspects in this situation. One of this is Skin. Your skin is actually your largest organ, and so important for all its functions: protection; sensation; thermoregulation; control of evaporation; storage of synthesis; absorption of important ingredients of life; water resistance.

It is essential to take good care of your skin. You think you can stay out in the sun for a long time, sunbathing to get a great tan. That is actually real bad for your skin. So No Más!

Oh, and drink lots of water, everyday, all day!

Support system

With a limited support system for us here in San Francisco, it shows how vulnerable we are for situations which are unexpected. F and I are alone with 3 little kids with a couple of friends from their school and some real close friends at around 30 minutes away.
Although we love all of them, and know they would be there for us, it's not the same as family.

Mrs. F - My Rock

How could I have survived without Mrs. F. She has been amazing the last week, as taking care of 2 young kids who need to be fed, clothed and taken to summer camp, a young baby with the demands that come with it, and a grumpy husband with all the side effects of the medications going around his body while sleep deprived is no fun!

How you put up with these kind of situations, the demanding kids and especially how you put up with me every day is amazing. Thank you for what you've done!

Conclusion

While reading the Wikipedia page for Amoxicillin today, I learned it was a good thing to take swift action when we had the suspicion the itchy hands were because of the Amoxicillin pills.

The onset of an allergic reaction to amoxicillin can be very sudden and intense - emergency medical attention must be sought as quickly as possible.

The initial onset of such a reaction often starts with a change in mental state, skin rash with intense itching (often beginning in fingertips and around groin area and rapidly spreading), and sensations of fever, nausea, and vomiting. Any other symptoms that seem even remotely suspicious must be taken very seriously.

However, more mild allergy symptoms, such as a rash, can occur at any time during treatment, even up to a week after treatment has ceased.

For some people who are allergic to amoxicillin the side-effects can be deadly.

It took more than a week, and clearly I'm not there yet. Work has been piling up, a lot of emails were left unanswered and the house can use some work from my end. It was heart warming to get all the well wishes, Facebook comments and emails from everybody. Sorry I could not respond in person, as I was just to out of it all...

Timing isn't perfect either with Mr. D's operation planned tomorrow morning, crazy busy and the roller-coaster of life hasn't ended yet.

 

Now go take care of yourself, your skin and most important: your loved ones...!!!