Medications affect each of us in different ways, and reactions to drugs are very common. However, not all reactions are allergies. This is important because the type of reaction you are having (an allergy, a side effect, or intolerance) will determine what medications you can take in the future.
Allergists have extensive training on diagnosing and managing drug reactions. We can determine whether you need to avoid a medication, whether other related drugs also need to be avoided, and whether you are likely to have a reaction again. Allergists can even desensitize you to a drug you really need, in some cases.
A drug challenge is a test during which you are given the suspected drug in the office where medical staff can monitor you and treat any reactions quickly and effectively. This is the most accurate test for drug allergy, and is usually done when we believe you can tolerate the drug without problems.
Penicillin is one of the most commonly reported drug allergies. However, 95% of people labeled allergic turn out to have negative testing and can take penicillin again without problems. Simply avoiding penicillins anyway may sound simple, but there are risks:
- You may be prescribed other antibiotics which don’t work as well for the infection you have
- These other antibiotics tend to cause more adverse reactions, such as kidney injury, diarrhea, or further infections with drug-resistant bacteria
These problems are so serious and widespread that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a thorough evaluation of a suspected penicillin allergy before prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
For more information: https://acaai.org/allergies/types/drug-allergies