Having an allergy is a serious concern, especially when you have severe reactions that put your life at risk. However, it’s equally important to confirm the presence of an allergy so you can avoid complications, especially when it comes to medications like penicillin.
Approximately 10% of Americans report having allergic reactions to penicillin at some point in their life. However, in reality, less than 1% of the population truly has a penicillin allergy. This may not seem like cause for concern, but penicillin antibiotics offer some of the safest and most effective treatments for several bacterial infections — from strep throat and ear infections to pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. It’s also generally less expensive and comes with fewer side effects than other forms of antibiotics.
Fortunately, our team at Advanced Allergy & Asthma in Ogden, Utah, can help determine if you have a penicillin allergy or not. And, once you know your results, we can make personalized recommendations moving forward.
The confusion behind penicillin allergies
There are several reasons people believe they have a penicillin allergy.
A history of an allergy
Many people have also been told they had a bad reaction to penicillin as a child, so they think they have a lifelong allergy. However, even if you had a penicillin allergy in the past, 80% of people lose their sensitivity after ten years.
Overlooking symptoms of illness
It’s easy to confuse signs of an illness with allergy symptoms. For example, it’s quite common to develop a rash when you have an infection, especially in children.
Having side effects
More often than not, people think they have an allergy when they experience unpleasant side effects to medication. Side effects describe possible adverse reactions to taking certain medications, like fatigue, nausea, or diarrhea. However, having an allergic reaction involves your immune system.
More than side effects
Side effects to medication are far more common than experiencing an allergic reaction. When your immune system reacts to penicillin, you can develop symptoms that include:
- Itching, skin rash, or hives
- Swollen skin, lips, or tongue
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Runny nose or itchy, watery eyes
In severe allergic cases, you can also experience anaphylaxis. This rare, life-threatening reaction can lead to:
- Trouble breathing from constricted airways and throat
- Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness
- A drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
In most cases, symptoms typically develop within an hour of taking the medication. However, in rare cases, people can have allergic responses to penicillin hours, days, or weeks later.
Confirming an allergy
Don’t worry; you don’t have to take penicillin again to confirm whether you have an allergy or not. And guess what? So, to find out where you stand, all you have to do is schedule a consultation.
During your appointment at Advanced Allergy & Asthma, our team performs an assessment, reviews your history, and discusses your past reactions to penicillin. Then we perform a skin test.
A skin test involves introducing a small amount of penicillin to your system through a tiny skin prick. Then, we monitor the area closely for any signs of a reaction. Typical responses to a penicillin skin test include itching, swelling, or redness at the pinprick site. If you don’t react, it’s unlikely you have a penicillin allergy.
Even if you have a penicillin allergy, you still have options. Our experienced team offers penicillin treatment designed to desensitize people with drug allergies. We can also provide detailed instructions on how to safely navigate infection treatment while avoiding penicillin medications.
Want to see if you have a penicillin allergy? Contact Advanced Allergy & Asthma to schedule a consultation by calling today.