5 Important Reasons you Should know what NDKA and NKA Allergy Means

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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH

NKDA or NKA allergy is a medical abbreviation for “No Known Drug Allergy” and “No Known Allergy”

You might feel NKDA or NKA doesnt really mean anything other than no allergies, but here is why you should rethink that.   Never assume that allergy only means drug allergy hence the NKA vs NKDA allergy. 


It is important to understand the subtle difference between NKA and NKDA.   Here are the 5 essential elements to know to keep you safe, healthy and prevent overspending on medication.

#1 Food and non drug allergies

Any person can be allergic to a drug or non drug items they come into contact with. Common food examples include peanuts or shrimp. Non food examples would be plants, pollen and latex.

Say you developed contact dermatitis from touching a latex balloon.  You would want to inform your healthcare team of that before you went in for surgery where your doctor was using latex gloves.

Instead of dermatitis you could develop anaphylaxis, the most severe type of allergy, which could be deadly!

In recent years it seems like there has been an explosion of food allergies. It is important for you to communicate these types of allergy to your healthcare team as well. One day you might be prescribed a drug or diet for your disease state that is based in something you are allergic to.

If your doctor asks you what medications are you allergic to and you say none, they will mark you as NKDA. Why not also tell them anything else you are allergic to.

Hopefully, you can tell them it is okay to put NKA in your chart if you really are not allergic to anything.

#2 Allergy vs. intolerance?

An allergy is defined as something causing an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body.

An intolerance is defined as the inability to tolerate side effects of a medication or food. Examples would be upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea. None of these have true immune system response.

Any easy way to tell if you are allergic or intolerant is to try an antihistamine test. This is where you use a product such as diphenhydramine, the generic for Benadryl. Take a low 25mg dose 30 minutes prior to taking the medication you think you are allergic to. If your symptoms are not as bad you might have been allergic, but if they are the same then you are likely intolerant. Diphenhydramine is very reasonably priced.

Click here for a great buy on Diphenhydramine

You may have an allergy listed to a drug, but if you really just felt nauseas when you took it that really isn’t an allergy. For many medications you can do things to prevent these types of intolerances. Working with your doctor and pharmacist to manage these intolerances can help you get the treatment you need without the adverse effect

You may have an allergy listed to a drug, but if you really just felt nauseas when you took it that really isn’t an allergy. For many medications you can do things to prevent these types of intolerances. Working with your doctor and pharmacist to manage these intolerances can help you get the treatment you need without the adverse effect

Heck, you might want to change your allergies back to NKDA in that case.

#3 Save money by using drugs you are intolerant to?

Many times patients will try a drug without having proper instructions how they should take the medication. This can lead to those drugs being put on the allergy list. Thus, not being available to help treat your disease any longer.

As a pharmacist I see this often when patients were not instructed to take a medication with food.

When that happens the alternate drug picked to treat the disease is often more expensive.

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS DISCUSS WITH YOUR DOCTOR AND PHARMACIST FIRST!

If they agree and you take the drug in the right way, you may just be able to save money on medication costs by knowing about your allergies.

#4 Do your allergies all match?

How do you know if your allergies are properly notated?  You need to confirm what your all your doctors and your pharmacist has on file for you. See the example below…

Primary care doctor: NDKA

Heart specialist: upset stomach with Digoxin

Pharmacist: Latex allergy

Outpatient surgery center:  Peanut allergy

As you can see in the example everyone needs to know about the latex allergy so you don’t end up with a bad experience when having surgery.

NKA is not appropriate due to the peanut and latex allergy.

NKDA might be right for you since the Digoxin is not really an allergy, but rather an intolerance.

You need to make sure everyone gets this noted correctly. Correcting mistakes in your medical file can prevent dire consequences.

#5 Allergies can change over time

Allergies can develop at any time. You may feel effects immediately upon ingestion or it could take years to appear after taking a drug or non drug item.

Allergies can also go away or lessen over time, again before you test this theory consult your doctor.

The reason is that over time your immune system can change as you age and come into contact with different allergens. So make sure you remember what NDKA and NKA mean as things can change.

The first time you take the drug you may not notice symptoms of an allergy. However, after you first take the medication your immune system produces antibodies to the drug. Antibodies are the way the immune system recognizes the drug or other thing that you are allergic to and then attacks it. On the second time you take the medication the antibodies are now ready to attack.

Thus you may have an allergy on second or third doses. This happens more commonly for injectable drugs that you may only take once a week or once a month.

Learn more about allergies

The Allergy Solution is a great resource if you want to understand more about how allergies come to be. Also, what you can do about them.

Click here to read more on The Allergy Solution

You probably had not given much thought in the past about the importance of knowing your allergies, I hope now you will think twice about your allergy status.

Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!

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Do you have food or drug allergies? Please chime in below with your comments and thoughts below.

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