If you’ve been previously diagnosed with an allergy to penicillin, then you should think about getting a retest, as experts suggest that a penicillin allergy can change over a person’s lifetime. Furthermore, doctors suggest that those who have been diagnosed may not actually have an allergy to penicillin and should be retested to further investigate the cause of the misdiagnosis.
Allergist Dr. Min Lee explained, “Penicillins are some of the safest and cheapest antibiotics available, and people who are reported to be allergic often get antibiotics that are costlier and potentially more toxic.”
Researchers at UT Southwestern found that nearly 90 percent of individuals with a penicillin allergy didn’t actually have a reaction when exposed to penicillin during an allergy test.
A penicillin allergy is detected during a two-step process. First, a skin test is conducted—if the results are negative, the patient is given oral penicillin. When patients are given the oral penicillin, they are carefully monitored to see if a reaction occurs.
But why would a person be mistakenly diagnosed with a penicillin allergy? For starters, some patients who were previously diagnosed with a penicillin allergy simply outgrow it. For this reason, researchers suggest that parents have their children retested for the allergy prior to entering their adult years. Lee added, “Even if a child was allergic 10, 15 years ago, they may not be now and if not, it’s a good time to get the label removed from health records.” Additionally, some viral infections could lead to a misdiagnosis of penicillin allergy.
It is highly important that individuals verify their penicillin allergy as a means to avoid taking other medications that could yield unwanted and severe side effects. There are alternative antibiotics that are prescribed when penicillin cannot be, but these alternatives can kill off helpful bacteria of the skin and gut. along with contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance.
Lee concluded, “People who have a reported penicillin allergy are more likely to be hospitalized for C. difficile and MRSA — bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and can cause life-threatening infections.”
So, if you’ve previously been told you were allergic to penicillin but haven’t had this checked in quite some time, you may want to visit your allergist to confirm the diagnosis.