Posted on Jan 9, 2017 1:35pm PST

In 1928, the wonder drug penicillin was first introduced to the world and has revolutionized medicine since then, treating a variety of fatal infections. But what happens if you are allergic to it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10% of the population is allergic to penicillin. However, many people may actually safely use penicillin, either because they have lost sensitivity over time or they were never truly allergic in the first place.

It is imperative to understand penicillin allergy. If you believe you are allergic to penicillin, you must see a board-certified allergist for testing instead of waiting for a medical crisis to occur.

The following are four things you need to know about penicillin allergy:

  1. Penicillin allergy can be life-threatening. Anyone who is allergic to one kind of penicillin should be considered allergic to all types and avoid the medication group altogether. Speak with your doctor prior to taking any new medicines to determine if they are not penicillin-based.
  2. Penicillin allergy may not last your entire lifetime. Approximately 20% of people will be allergic to penicillin a decade after their initial allergic reaction if they’re not exposed to it throughout this time period.
  3. Testing for penicillin allergy is safe and effective. A patient initially undergoes a series of skin prick tests that use gradual amounts of penicillin. If the test comes back negative, then the next step is the oral challenge (i.e. drinking liquid penicillin). These tests need to be conducted by a qualified allergist.
  4. Avoiding penicillin entirely may not be the best option. Alternative antibiotics to penicillin might be less effective in treating your infection, which can result in unwanted side effects. In addition, broad-spectrum antibiotics can be more expensive than penicillin.

To learn more about the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia or to schedule an appointment, please call (404) 994-3574 or fill out our online contact form.