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Allergy Testing

Think You’re Allergic to Penicillin?

Have you been tested?

Chances are, you’re not truly allergic.

Know the Facts

Nine out of 10 patients who claim a penicillin allergy aren’t really allergic and can safely take penicillin and related antibiotics that may not have been previously considered.

Drug allergy can be serious and it is important to know for sure. An allergy to penicillin-type drugs is the only one that can be diagnosed through a skin test.

How could I NOT be allergic?

People are mistakenly thought to be allergic for many reasons, the most common are:

  • Symptom Confusion – A rash, originally thoug to be from penicillin, may have been casused by the current illness and not the penicillin antibiotic. Many diseases cause rashes and other symptoms that are often confused with an allergy.
  • Immune System Changes – Many patients outgrow allergies as their immune system develops, so even if you once were truly allergic, you may not be now.
  • Side Effects from Medications – Medications can sometimes cause people to not feel well, have an upset stomach and other discomforts that may seem like an allergy when they are just side effects.

The only way to know if you are truly allergic is to be tested.

Why does it matter?

Understanding whether or not you are really allergic to penicillin is important for your health both now and in the future.

For many illnesses, penicillin is the best treatment option available.

  • Penicillin is less expensive than other drugs and may be available at no cost at your local pharmacy.
  • Alternatives to penicillin can contribute to the problem of drug resistance (aka Super Bugs) which may make antibiotics less effective in the future.
What can I do if I think I might be allergic?

Ask your doctor about getting skin tested for penicillin allergy. The test is simple and only takes an hour.

Although you can be tested at any time, having access to penicillin antibiotics may make a visit to the doctor, hospital or urgent care less expensive.

Ask your doctor about testing today.

How does the test work?

Skin testing for penicillin allergy is a three-step process:

  1. Scratch Testing – Your healthcare provider will first perform skin tests by gently scratching the surface of the skin a few times. If you receive a positive result, the test stops at this stage. If your reaction is negative, your doctor will proceed to the next step.
  2. Intradermal Testing – If scratch testing is negative, your doctor will conduct intradermal testing. This consists of a few small injections, just under the skin’s surface.
  3. Test Dose – Your doctor may decide to give you a test dose, sometimes called an oral challenge. This usually involves being given a penicillin tablet while under observation.
Is getting tested right for you?

The best source of information on penicillin allergy skin testing is your doctor.  Be sure to ask your doctor whether or not you are a candidate for testing and discuss the benefits and risks of getting tested.

As with other diagnostic tests, penicillin allergy skin testing does carry risks. Some risks can be serious and life-threatening. Be sure to check with your doctor about the benefits and risks of testing.

Blumenthal, Kimberly, et al. Effect of a Drug Allergy Education Program and Antibiotic Prescribing Guideline on Inpatient Clinical Providers’ Antibiotic Prescribing Knowledge. JACI: In Practice. Volume 2. No. 4. July-August 2014

Unger, Nathan, et al. Penicillin Skin Testing: Potential Implications for Antimicrobial Stewardship. Pharmacotherapy. Volume 33. No. 8. August 2013

Arroliga, Mercedes, et al. A Pilot Study of Skin Testing… CHEST 2000; 118; 1106-1108. DOI 10.1378/CHEST.118.4.116

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