How to check if you’re allergic to penicillin

Health Watch

There’s a test to help people know once and for all if they are allergic to penicillin.

Most people who think they have a penicillin allergy don’t.

Doctors say that could be a problem but there is a simple way you can check to see if you’re allergic.

Barbara Clements wants to know if she’s allergic to penicillin. Both her husband and daughter believe they are. Her dad, too.

Barbara Clements says, ” I remember as a child, growing up, he was very careful about it. And so I was just wondering if it was hereditary.”

Infectious Disease Specialist Doctor Seth Cohen says the nine out of ten people that wrongly think they’re allergic to penicillin may be putting themselves at risk.

This is especially true for patients who are elderly, immunosuppressed, pregnant or need surgery.

Seth Cohen, MD, University of Washington says, “if you’re labeled as having a penicillin allergy, you may be unnecessarily placed on a broad-spectrum antibiotic that can lead to side effects or maybe less effective than something in the penicillin family.”

A skin scratch test can reveal whether a patient has a penicillin allergy in a little less than an hour.

Seth Cohen continues, “skin testing is a rapid office-based procedure where we can de-list somebody’s penicillin allergy. That means we can tell them in the office that they do not have a penicillin allergy.”

He puts penicillin or saline on the skin, scratches it in, marks it and waits for a reaction if there is one.

That means Barb is not allergic. Now she wants to get her husband and daughter tested.

Doctor Cohen says the skin test is safe and cost-effective, as it reduces the risk of complications in the hospital.

Also, many people lose penicillin allergies in about ten years, so he and the CDC suggest being re-evaluated.

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