Penicillin allergy remains the most common drug allergy, with a reported prevalence of 10% in the United States. However, penicillin allergies are often misdiagnosed and require specific testing by an allergist. After a complete evaluation, almost 90% of individuals with a diagnosed penicillin allergy are actually able to tolerate penicillins.

Understanding your penicillin allergy or sensitivity is crucial to receiving the best health care.  Penicillin skin sensitivity testing can help to confirm the safety of the drug and calm any fears of a dangerous drug reaction.


Testing for Penicillin Allergy

To test for a penicillin allergy, your allergist will administer a small amount of penicillin on your skin using a tiny needle or an injection. If your skin has a positive reaction, then it will cause an itchy, red, and raised bump. If your skin doesn’t have a reaction it typically means you don’t have an allergy. However, a negative reaction can mean you still have a sensitivity. Your allergist will be able to better understand your penicillin sensitivity after the test.


Managing a Penicillin Allergy

Unfortunately, having a penicillin allergy means you are at risk to experience the symptoms of a penicillin allergy. This includes experiencing anaphylaxis. Having an awareness of your allergy and communicating that to your health care providers will help preventing an allergic reaction to penicillin. Mild allergic reactions can be treated with an antihistamines like diphenhydramine, to relieve itching and skin rash. Serious reactions require emergency care.  Young patients diagnosed with a penicillin allergy are often given a bracelet to wear that states their allergy.


Symptoms of a penicillin allergy;

  • rash
  • itching
  • nausea
  • hives
  • swelling
  • feeling “not quite right”
  • vomiting
  • shortness of breath, cough, wheeze
  • anaphylaxis


Do You Have a Penicillin Allergy?

According to recent studies, only 10% of patients diagnosed with a penicillin allergy are truly allergic. It’s important you are properly tested by an allergic to ensure you receive proper health care. After you are properly tested, you can better manage your penicillin allergy or sensitivity.


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