You thought you were allergic to penicillin, but you could be wrong. If you had a rash develop right after taking penicillin, but it might not have actually been related to the drug. Researchers presented these findings to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting on Friday.
It has apparently been long suspected that penicillin allergies weren’t as common as many people believe, and now two studies have supported that theory. An allergist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and his colleagues led a study with 384 people who believed they were allergic to penicillin. However, when they were all tested again for the allergy, 94 percent of them didn’t demonstrate having the allergy. A second study, though smaller with only 38 participants, showed none of those who thought they were allergic to the antibiotic actually still had the allergy.
So how does a person with a documented history of an allergy suddenly not have one? The president of the ACAAI, Dr. James Sublett, said that many people discover a reaction in early childhood and never have it re-checked. Of course, we know bodies change and allergies can adapt along with them, so doctors say the only way to really know if a patient has a penicillin allergy is to conduct a skin allergy test. The studies showed that no matter how severe the first reaction to penicillin was, participants usually outgrow the allergy.
This discovery is beneficial to both patients and doctors. For the patients, they won’t have to spend money on penicillin alternatives, which can be seven to eight times more expensive than a generic penicillin drug, according to Dr. Sublett. They’re also gaining the benefit of using the more effective drug with fewer side effects.
By ruling out a penicillin allergy in these patients, now doctors have the ability to reserve those medications for infections have have become resistant to penicillin. In reducing their use of non-penicillin antibiotics, they’re also preventing other diseases from becoming resistant to those drugs .
Since it’s not common for health care providers to question when a patient lists an allergy, it’s important for people to follow up with their own allergies, to save themselves money and to gain some peace of mind.