Medical Professional Publications

How To Evaluate an Existing Penicillin Allergy

Columbus, OH — March 2018

As many as 10 percent of people are identified as “allergic” to penicillin, but 90 percent of them will test negative for the allergy and can actually tolerate the antibiotics.

Or here’s another way of saying it: only 1 out of every 10 people labeled allergic to penicillin actually is.

“Most people who get labeled with a penicillin allergy as a kid were taking amoxicillin or penicillin when they had a viral infection. They got a viral rash and were told that it was an allergic reaction to the medication,” says Mitchell Grayson, MD, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “From then on, they are told to avoid penicillin and related antibiotics.”

Beta-lactam antibiotics such as penicillin are inexpensive and effective; alternatives can be more costly and come with more complications. So Dr. Grayson and his colleagues have created this practice tool, including a decision tree, to aid primary care providers in evaluating children who have been previously identified as allergic.

“The time to know whether children are allergic to penicillin is before they have an infection and need an antibiotic,” says Dr. Grayson.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000