Fort Worth, Texas,
15:07 PM

Allergic to penicillin? Maybe not

The Doc Smitty and the significant consequences of drug allergies

You child developed a rash after taking amoxicillin or diarrhea after taking Omnicef.

But, is he allergic?

Listing medications as an allergy may not seem like a big deal, but it can have significant consequences:

  1. Your doctor may have to choose “stronger” antibiotics that have more risk of side effects.
  2. Your doctor may have to choose more expensive antibiotics.
  3. Your doctor may have to choose antibiotics that are known to be less effective against your child’s infection.

If a medicine is listed as an allergy for your children, it will carry on with them into adulthood. When they are 30 and having to make big decision about their medical care, many will have no idea why a drug is listed as an allergy for them.

A recent study conducted in adults at the Mayo Clinic in Florida showed that, out of 384 adult patients who listed a penicillin allergy, 94 percent did not actually have an allergy after being tested. I knew it would be pretty high but, WOW!

Even if a child has a true reaction, the authors report that some people “outgrew” their allergic reaction over time. This is true no matter how severe the first reaction was.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your doctor about possible drug allergies:

  1. Was this an allergy or a side effect? There is a big difference.
  2. If we are going to list this medicine as an allergy, does this mean to never try it again? Some doctors might recommend retrying an antibiotic later if the reaction was mild or possibly not truly related to the antibiotics. Some reactions are clearly allergic and the medicine should not be used again.
  3. Should we have testing done (at some point) if we are unsure?

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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