According to the CDC, up to 10% of people report a penicillin allergy. Recent studies have shown that most people who were labelled “allergic” are actually able to tolerate penicillin safely because they never were truly allergic or they lost sensitivity over time. Many never had a true allergic reaction, but a rash or hives that developed after taking penicillin was thought to be caused by the medication.

Penicillin Allergy Symptoms

Penicillin allergy is serious and can be life threatening. Symptoms include rashes, inflammation, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Many patients have been labelled “allergic” based on childhood symptoms which does not necessarily mean they will have a reaction as an adult. Studies have shown that 80% of adults with reactions 10 or more years ago no longer have sensitivity to penicillin.

Penicillin Allergy Treatment

Avoiding penicillin without an allergy diagnosis is not the best idea. Broad spectrum antibiotics may be less effective in treating infections and may cause antibiotic-resistant superbugs. This can result in unnecessary hospital stays and be more expensive.

Testing for penicillin allergy is safe and reliable but should only be conducted by an allergist who can recognize and treat a potential allergic reaction. Fewer than 1% of the population is truly allergic to penicillin. Don’t wait until you are in a medical crisis. Talk to an allergist if you think you are penicillin allergic.