Penicillin allergy in the ER

By • Published: June 17th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Think you’re allergic to penicillin? You may need to think again. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that most people visiting an emergency room who believed they were allergic to the antibiotic actually were not.

The researchers recruited doctors at a Cincinnati hospital to administer a skin test to patients who reported a penicillin allergy. Out of one-hundred-fifty people tested, ninety-one percent suffered no allergic reaction.

There are numerous varieties of penicillin, which comes from mold. These stop the formation of growing bacterial cells and attack existing ones. Medicines made with penicillin combat many diseases, including strep throat, gangrene and scarlet fever.

According to the researchers, using skin tests in emergency rooms would improve care for patients who mistakenly claim a penicillin allergy but would in fact benefit from the drug. Using a variety of antibiotics instead of penicillin may promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, previous research shows. Some alternate medications are more expensive, and sometimes a penicillin-based drug is just the best choice for treatment.

Most patients in the study reported they had prior negative reactions to penicillin or that family members said they were allergic. But perceived allergic reactions can be confusing for non-professionals and relatives aren’t always straight on their facts.

Only two patients in the study had ever undergone a penicillin allergy skin test before.

So before you avoid a drug with powerful healing qualities, ask your doctor for a quick test. All it takes is a few minutes to get the facts straight.