Are you really allergic to penicillin?

allergic to penicillin

Are you really allergic to penicillin?

On 7th November 2019, researchers published a paper in the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI). It concluded medical databases don’t accurately reflect reality when it comes to penicillin allergies. 

The American study claims around 10% of people have a penicillin allergy noted on their medical records but only approximately 1% of the population is legitimately allergic to penicillin. The NHS suggests similar figures for the UK. 

Why do so many people think they’re allergic?

The reason so many people believe they’re allergic to penicillin is a combination of factors. Some are misdiagnosed. Others were allergic but lost their sensitivity over time, which can happen with a multitude of other allergies. However, their medical records may still state an allergy to penicillin as the information hasn’t been updated. Sometimes, people just grow out of the allergy. 

Why does it matter?

One 2015 study suggests true penicillin allergies only occur in around 0.03% of the population. If there are huge discrepancies like this between the number of people who think they’re allergic and those who are truly allergic, medical professionals should take steps to diagnose the condition more accurately so patients can make use of the amazing qualities of penicillin. 

There are alternatives available for patients allergic to penicillin, but these have a few concerning impacts for patients and hospitals. For example, they:

  • Result in longer hospital stays
  • Increase the risk of microbial resistant infections
  • Incur higher costs

These three factors are particularly concerning for the NHS which is why the accurate diagnosis of a penicillin allergy is of huge importance. 

Some people are allergic to penicillin though, and this research shouldn’t encourage anyone to take a penicillin allergy diagnosis on someone’s medical history less seriously until an allergist has diagnosed them properly.

It’s a great idea for people with penicillin allergies to speak to an allergist to have their allergy evaluated safely. You can book an appointment with one of the consultants at The London Allergy and Immunology Centre by clicking here or by calling 0203 143 3449. 

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