Many people have incorrectly been told that they are allergic to penicillin. Those that have been incorrectly told this have often been given alternative antibiotics before surgery to ward off infections. They have not however had the proper allergy testing done to confirm it. These days because antibiotic choices are limited due to how resistant infections have become these alternative treatments can be more toxic, expensive and less effective.

Two studies believe that if people think they have or have been told they have a penicillin allergy would benefit very well from a consultation with an allergist and penicillin allergy skin testing. Once they know for sure if they are allergic or not can they be given proper treatment before surgery.

The first study took 384 people who believed to be allergic to penicillin. Once they were all tested properly the study found that 94% tested negative to being allergic.

“A large number of people in our study who had a history of penicillin allergy were actually not allergic,” said allergist Thanai Pongdee, lead study author. “They may have had an unfavorable response to penicillin at some point in the past, such as hives or swelling, but they did not demonstrate any evidence of penicillin allergy at the current time. With that in mind, their doctors prescribed different medications prior to surgery.”

The second study was done on a smaller scale and only tested 38 people who believed they were allergic to penicillin in order to see if they could possibly reduce the use of high-cost antibiotics. Out of the 38 people tested the study found them all to be negative to an allergy for penicillin and since they had that knowledge the medical center was able to change the medications for 29 of the patients and significantly lowered prescription costs.

“When you are told you have an allergy to something, it’s important to be seen and tested by an allergist, who has the specialized training needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment,” said allergist James Sublett, “If you’re truly allergic to a medication, your allergist will counsel you on an appropriate substitute.”