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Penicillin Allergy

The Truth About Penicillin Allergy


If you have ever taken an antibiotic from the penicillin family and had symptoms like rash, trouble breathing, vomiting or even a runny nose, you may have had a reaction to penicillin. Some reactions are actually common side effects of the medication. Other reactions may be signs of an allergy. Allergies happen when your immune system responds abnormally to something that is meant to be safe for your body. Some people were told they had an allergic reaction to penicillin as a child and they carry this label with them into adulthood.


Did you know that 10% of the population believes they have a penicillin allergy, but LESS THAN 1% actually have one? That’s a BIG DIFFERENCE! Carrying the label of a penicillin allergy in your medical records can limit your doctors from using one of the best antibiotics available to treat your infections. This leads to second choice antibiotics being used, bacteria that are able to overcome antibiotics (resistance), more side effects and higher healthcare costs. Did you know that 80% of people who had a penicillin allergy LOSE the allergy over a 10-year period? Even in the case of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), individuals can still lose their allergy over time. 


Don’t worry! There is a way for you to find out if you really are allergic to penicillin. Here’s what you can do:
  1. Talk to your allergist!
  2. He or she will listen to you recount what happened when you took penicillin
  3. Your allergist will decide if testing it right for you
  4. You can find a convenient time to schedule your penicillin test at one of our many locations


In most cases, penicillin testing will be done in two steps: a skin test followed by an oral challenge. A skin test involves a few light pricks with a plastic applicator followed by small injection of penicillin under the skin (similar to a classic TB test). Both steps require 15 minutes of waiting to see if you develop a skin reaction at the area of the test. If the tests are negative, there is a high probability that you are not allergic to penicillin and it is safe to proceed to the oral challenge. During the challenge, your allergist will give you oral penicillin in the office and you will be carefully observed for at least an hour. These tests can help you and your allergist learn if you are no longer allergic to penicillin. Remember that your allergist is trained to recognize early signs of an allergic reaction and to treat you quickly and effectively.


Don’t wait until you have an infection that needs to be treated with an antibiotic. The best time to test for a penicillin allergy is when you are healthy. This way your doctors will be have all the information to give you the best care possible!   Click here to get started: 

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