Chronic hives (urticaria) and penicillin allergy have a strong association: Study

chronic hivesChronic hives (urticaria) and penicillin allergy have a strong association, according to research. The study found that those living with a penicillin allergy are three times more likely to suffer from chronic hives, compared to the general population.

The researchers examined medical records of 11,143 patients, where 220 were identified as having self-reported penicillin allergy and chronic hives. Lead author Susanna Silverman said, “We wanted to know if there was a correlation between self-reported penicillin allergy and chronic urticaria. We found higher than expected incidence compared to the general population, and we wondered if some patients who believed they had penicillin allergy might actually have chronic urticaria.”


Allergist and study author Andrea Apter added, “It’s important for anyone who thinks they have a penicillin allergy to be tested by an allergist. If testing finds that someone with chronic urticaria and self-reported penicillin allergy isn’t allergic to penicillin, it may be that their hives are simply due to chronic urticaria, or they may be more prone to rashes and hives throughout their lives, possibly due to increased skin sensitivity.”

Chronic urticaria is a condition in which hives become present either continuously or on and off for longer than six weeks.

Penicillin allergy causes, risk factors, and symptoms

Penicillin is an antibiotic, and a penicillin allergy is when the body creates antibodies against this drug. When penicillin enters the body, an immune reaction – such as hives, itching, or even anaphylaxis in severe cases – is triggered.

Penicillin allergy was found to be over-reported, resulting in the use of more expensive antibiotics to treat many common ailments. In order to ensure the best treatment, a proper diagnosis of a penicillin allergy is required.

As mentioned, penicillin allergy is caused when the body mistakes penicillin as being harmful and creates antibodies to attack it when it enters the body. Even trace amounts of penicillin found in food can be enough for the body to create antibodies, and thus when you take the antibiotics, you develop a reaction.

Risk factors for penicillin allergy include:

  • History of allergies or hives
  • Allergy to another drug
  • Family history of drug allergy
  • Increased exposure to penicillin
  • Illnesses associated with drug reactions, such as Esptein-Barr virus

Symptoms of penicillin allergy are:

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Anaphylaxis, which consists of tightening of the airways, nausea and abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, weak and rapid pulse, drop in blood pressure, seizures, and loss of consciousness – if these symptoms occur, call emergency immediately.

Penicillin allergy can contribute to other health conditions as well, including serum sickness, drug-induced anemia, drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms, and inflammation of the kidneys.

In order to reduce your risk of complications related to penicillin allergy, get yourself tested by an allergist, and continue to get checked every seven years or so, as allergies can change over time.

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Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.