Recent research shows that approximately 98% of patients labeled to be allergic to penicillin are actually able to safely take the medication. Many people have either lost their past allergy or were never really allergic to penicillin. However, there is no way to determine if you are one of the fortunate 98% without completing penicillin allergy testing.
While most patients think that there are many other good alternative antibiotics that can be substituted for penicillin, this is not the case. Unfortunately, most of the “second choice” antibiotics are more expensive, have more severe side effects, and are often less effective. With overuse of the stronger, more broad-spectrum antibiotics in the United States, we are already starting to see severe infections for which we have fewer, if any, effective medications, as the bacteria have become resistant. Furthermore, a penicillin drug remains the least costly and most effective treatment for many common infections such as acute sinus infection, acute ear infection, pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx, causing a sore throat), pneumonia, and for most infections of children and pregnant women.
We would like you to schedule a visit to discuss the details of your allergic reaction to penicillin with Dr. Basen or Dr. Venkat. If it is determined that penicillin testing is appropriate for you, we will schedule follow-up testing and oral challenge visit (allow 3 hours). At the conclusion of penicillin testing, if you “pass” the oral challenge, we will notify your primary care physician and pharmacist to remove those scarlet letters “Penicillin Allergy” from your chart and you can take penicillin drugs when needed in the future.