Healthcare Providers Urging Those with Penicillin Allergy in Medical Records to Get Tested

by -

Patients Urged to Be Retested forhttps://publisher.etyp

Have you been diagnosed with a penicillin allergy?

If so, you are among one in 10 Americans with this information included in their medical records. Unfortunately, the reality is an estimated 90% to 95% of these individuals do not have such an allergy. In fact, a true penicillin allergy is actually quite rare.

For the last several years, hospitals and clinics around the country and world have been working on penicillin allergy de-labeling; which is the act to appropriately remove the penicillin allergy from the medical record after evaluation. Providers are now encouraging all patients with a penicillin allergy in their medical records to undergo additional testing.

Why is this important?

Incorrectly stating a patient has this allergy has been linked to many complications, including poorer clinic outcomes (particularly with pneumonia), more secondary infections, greater likelihood of developing antibiotic resistant infections, higher potency antibiotics being administered and higher costs for the patient. It is estimated alternative antibiotic treatment costs average 63% higher than penicillin.

Studies have also shown that penicillin allergies can improve or resolve over time. Even if a patient had a true penicillin allergy and experienced an anaphylactic reaction, there is an 80% likelihood they lose sensitivity to penicillin after a decade.

Findings show a great majority of allergy diagnoses were the result of naturally occurring side effects of penicillin and/or the infection itself. Penicillin’s common side effects include headaches, diarrhea and nausea and infections often create mild rashes.

Recently, the Family Medicine Clinic sent a husband and wife who had been diagnosed with penicillin allergies to an allergist. Both were found to not truly have a penicillin allergy.

For these reasons, I am encouraging you to contact your primary care provider if you have a penicillin allergy in your medical records.

Your provider will make a referral to the local allergist with McFarland in Ames. For patients who have had a mild reaction in the past (stomach upset or a slight rash), an oral dose may be administered for testing. Those who had more serious reactions will undergo a skin test. If there is no reaction, the allergist will then administer an oral dose of a penicillin-related medication. Total testing time is only about one hour.

Please be proactive in taking the next step to ensure that when a problem does arise, the best course of treatment can be administered. Talk with your primary care provider at your next visit about testing to see if you are truly allergic to penicillin.  


Dr. Laurie Connolly, M.D.
Greene County Medical Center Chief Medical Officer