Jan 11, 2023

Penicillin Allergies

One of the most overlooked factors contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the misdiagnosis of a penicillin allergy. Penicillin is the most common drug allergy, reported in about 10 percent of the population, and leads to receiving alternative antibiotics when a penicillin is the drug of choice. Receiving an alternative antibiotic has been linked to higher costs, greater risk for adverse side effects, longer hospital stays and encouraging the growth of resistant bacterial strains.

Penicillins are used to treat infections caused by bacteria and work by killing the bacteria or preventing their growth. There are several different kinds of penicillin and each is used to treat different kinds of infections.

A penicillin allergy is an abnormal reaction by your immune system to the antibiotic drug. Common signs and symptoms of a penicillin allergy include hives, rash, itching and anaphylaxis. Studies show that this allergy is often time-sensitive – so after five years, 70 percent of those who had a reaction outgrew the allergy.

Research shows that penicillin allergies may be over-reported. It is estimated that about 90 percent of people diagnosed with a penicillin allergy can actually receive the drug safely. This is a problem that can result in the use of less appropriate and more expensive antibiotic treatments.

Those alternative treatments are also linked to the rise in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria each year in the United States alone. Therefore, it is important to find out if you are actually allergic to this drug.

There is only one FDA approved skin test for the diagnosis of a penicillin allergy. It is administered through scratch and intradermal testing and quickly identifies patients who can safely receive penicillin.

If you were previously diagnosed with a penicillin allergy, contact us or schedule an appointment to be tested. Finding out that you can safely receive penicillin could save you money, open up treatment options with less side effects and save lives by preventing further growth of drug-resistant bacteria.