Ask a Doctor: Am I really allergic to penicillin?

Ask a Doctor: Am I really allergic to penicillin?

January 23rd, 2018 by Dr. Curt Chaffin, MD in Life Entertainment

Dr. Curt Chaffin, MD; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Dr. Curt Chaffin, MD; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Q: My medical chart says I have a "penicillin allergy." Am I really allergic?

A: Up to 10 percent of the U.S. population thinks they are allergic to penicillin, but recent studies show that less than 10 percent truly are. With the increased use of electronic medical records, drug allergies are a part of your medical record likely to be shared with all physicians and hospitals. Once you've been labeled "penicillin allergic," you won't receive penicillin or a related drug.

The label "penicillin allergic" in most people is due to mistaking an adverse reaction such as vomiting or diarrhea for an allergy. It's also possible to confuse an unrelated viral rash as being caused by penicillin. Other people may truly have been allergic to penicillin in the past, but the allergy has gone away over time.

Symptoms of a true allergic reaction can vary from a mild skin rash to a severe chain reaction within the body called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Anaphylaxis caused by penicillin allergy is very rare. It's usually not possible to determine penicillin allergy based solely on patient history; a formal evaluation by an allergist is recommended. Penicillin allergy is the most common drug allergy. However, penicillin is also the preferred antibiotic for ear, sinus, chest, throat and skin infections. For those not allergic, penicillin is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It's well tolerated in children and is very economical. Your doctor's treatment choices are restricted if you are listed as allergic. The result is less effective, more expensive and more dangerous antibiotics being prescribed.

Penicillin allergy testing involves a simple, minimally invasive and reliable office-based test done by a board-certified allergist. If the tests are negative, you will be given an oral dose of a penicillin drug and monitored for an hour to an hour and a half in the allergist's office. If you are negative on skin testing and do not react to an oral challenge, you may safely take penicillin in the future. A positive skin test or oral challenge would confirm you should not take penicillin.

— Dr. Curt Chaffin, MD; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...