Penicillin Allergy Treatment
Penicillin allergy is an adverse reaction to antibiotics from the penicillin family. It occurs when a person has a true allergy to the drug, which can cause systemic symptoms such as shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and even anaphylaxis. People who are penicillin allergic may have mild reactions, such as rashes or hives, but in severe cases, the person could be hospitalized due to difficulty breathing. Antibiotics from other classes can still be used to treat bacterial infections when a person has a penicillin allergy. However, they may not always be as effective in treating the infection.
- The Benefits of Penicillin Allergy Treatment
- Diagnosis for Penicillin Allergy
- Test Options for Detecting Penicillin Allergy
- Treat Penicillin Allergy at Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy
- Risks Associated with Ignoring a Penicillin Allergy
- Why Choose Our Specialists?
- Frequently Asked Questions about Penicillin Allergy
The Benefits of Penicillin Allergy Treatment
Treating a penicillin allergy is essential for individuals affected to ensure the successful treatment of a bacterial infection without the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions. The benefits of penicillin allergy treatment include decreasing the risk of an adverse reaction to penicillin, using effective antibiotics when needed, and providing proper guidance and education to patients.
When treating a patient with a drug allergy, it is important that the healthcare professional obtains an accurate and detailed medical history and reviews any previous medical records regarding allergies. Allergy testing may be recommended if the cause of the allergic reaction is unclear. This testing can identify which medication allergies an individual has, as well as any common penicillins they may be allergic to, to determine an alternative antibiotic if required. In addition, it can help identify individuals at risk for developing severe symptoms upon exposure to penicillin drugs. Once the cause of the allergic symptoms is identified, therapeutic doses can be administered under close supervision by a physician to safely treat an infection while avoiding further harm due to an adverse reaction.
Signs of Penicillin Allergy
Mild symptoms include a skin rash, itching, hives, joint pain, and throat tightness. Severe reactions can include anaphylaxis and epidermal necrolysis. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, runny nose, and fever are also possible. It is important to be aware of the signs of a true penicillin allergy before taking any oral dose or injectable form of the antibiotic.
Reactions to Penicillin
When taking any type of medication, it is important to be aware of potential side effects or reactions that could occur. Signs that may indicate an allergic reaction to penicillin include skin redness or rash, itching or swelling, and difficulty breathing. A hypersensitivity reaction to the drug may also present itself in the form of serum sickness or drug rash with fever and swollen lymph nodes. In more severe cases, there may be an anaphylactic reaction that requires emergency medical attention right away.
Diagnosis for Penicillin Allergy
To properly diagnose and treat a penicillin allergy, healthcare professionals need to take a careful history of any previous allergic reactions as well as ask about related medications taken in the past, such as amoxicillin or cephalosporins. This information can help determine if there is a true allergy and then guide treatment decisions accordingly. If testing proves that an individual has a true penicillin allergy, then antibiotics from other classes, such as macrolides or tetracyclines, can still be used for infections such as strep throat, sinus infections, dental infections, and others caused by bacteria susceptible to these drugs to successfully treat the infection without putting the patient at risk for an adverse reaction.
Test Options for Detecting Penicillin Allergy
During penicillin allergy tests, medical professionals carefully monitor patients for safety. Multiple tests are available to diagnose penicillin allergy, each varying in accuracy:
Skin Prick Test
Known as scratch testing, the skin prick test detects penicillin allergy. A small penicillin amount is applied to the skin and pricked with a needle to introduce the allergen. A positive reaction manifests as a red, itchy bump, indicating a possible allergy. This safe and minimally invasive test is commonly used.
RAST Blood Test
The RAST blood test measures allergen-specific antibodies (IgE) in the blood. Detecting a penicillin allergy is less accurate than skin testing and may yield false results.
Intradermal testing injects penicillin under the skin, often on the forearm. More sensitive than skin prick testing, it may yield false positives due to its lower specificity.
Oral Drug Test
The oral provocation challenge administers increasing penicillin doses and observing reactions. This definitive test directly monitors responses but carries a higher risk of severe reactions. It is reserved for cases where other tests are inconclusive or inappropriate.
Treat Penicillin Allergy at Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy
Various treatments are available for penicillin allergy, tailored to severity and individual needs. These options address allergic reactions after occurrence:
Antihistamines alleviate mild to moderate penicillin allergy symptoms like itching and hives. Forms include oral tablets, liquids, creams, and gels. Over-the-counter choices comprise diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin).
Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and severe penicillin allergy reactions. Administered orally or by injection for short-term use, they include prednisone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone.
Immunotherapy gradually increases penicillin doses, building tolerance. Done under supervision over hours or days, it’s for confirmed penicillin allergy patients under professional guidance.
Epinephrine injections like EpiPens treat severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Rapidly reversing symptoms like breathing difficulties and swelling, they are crucial for emergencies. Immediate medical attention is vital after use.
Risks Associated with Ignoring a Penicillin Allergy
Ignoring a penicillin allergy may be extremely dangerous, leading to severe anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hypotension (low blood pressure), difficulty breathing, and rapid swelling of the face or throat. In some cases, a patient can have a cross-reactive drug reaction to other antibiotics if they unknowingly take even a small dose of penicillin when they are allergic, so it is important to be aware of any potential allergies before taking any type of antibiotic.
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Why Choose Our Specialists?
- Dr. Daniel G. Becker, Founder and Medical Director of The Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy Center, is a highly trained, board-certified specialist who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1986.
- Dr. Samuel S. Becker, Director of Rhinology at The Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy Center, is a highly trained, board-certified specialist who graduated from Amherst College in 1991 and attended medical school at the University of California San Francisco.
- Dr. Kenneth Rosenstein is a highly trained, board-certified otolaryngologist who attended medical school at Mcgill Universityand completed his residency training at the prestigious New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.
- Dr. Naomi Gregory is a highly trained, board-certified otolaryngologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Dr. Gregory completed medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia, PA.
- Dr. Michael Lupa, MD, is a highly trained, board-certified otolaryngologist with additional training in sinus surgery and allergy treatment, as well as advanced skull base surgery. He studied Biology at Tufts University and went on to complete medical school at Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.
- Dr. Robert Mignone is a highly trained, board-certified otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon who attended medical school at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.
- Dr. Aubrey McCullough is a highly trained otolaryngologist, facial plastic, and head and neck surgeon who completed medical school at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine.
- Dr. Luke Kim is an otolaryngologist who specializes in the diagnosis, medical management, and surgical treatment of diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Dr. Kim graduated with honors and with distinction from Cornell University and completed his medical studies at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Frequently Asked Questions about Penicillin Allergy
We understand that you may have additional questions regarding penicillin allergy treatment. To help address some common concerns, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and their answers.