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Is your allergy to Penicillin real?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Penicillin allergy may not be real

Many people have been told they are allergic to Penicillin. But allergy experts say that might not be the case at all, which leaves patients vulnerable to infections that could be helped by the medication. Perhaps your allergy to Penicillin isn't real. Here's how you can find out.


Allergists recently conducted a study of 395 people who said they had a Penicillin allergy. When the group was tested, 94 percent tested negative, meaning they may have had to forego inexpensive and effective treatment for infections. The finding is important given the fact that antibiotic treatment choices have become limited and many antibiotics are more toxic and costly than Penicillin.

Do you need to avoid Penicillin?

In a second study recently presented at the (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, 38 people at a hospital who believed they had a Penicillin allergy underwent skin testing.

All of the group tested negative, meaning lower prescription costs for 29 of the patients.

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To find out if you can take the antibiotic, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) recommends a consultation with an allergy specialist for skin testing.

"A large number of people in our study who had a history of penicillin allergy were actually not allergic," said allergist and ACAAI member Thanai Pongdee, MD, lead study author in a press release. "They may have had an unfavorable response to penicillin at some point in the past, such as hives or swelling, but they did not demonstrate any evidence of penicillin allergy at the current time. With that in mind, their doctors prescribed different medications prior to surgery."

If you want to know if you're truly allergic to Penicillin, get a skin test. Having an adverse reaction while taking any medication could come from a number of causes including rash from a virus that may have happened in childhood.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


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