Am I allergic to penicillin?

Over-diagnosed and Under-addressed

penicillinMy allergist’s office sent me, and I suspect, many other patients a letter this autumn. I was genuinely excited to receive it. The notice indicated as this FAQ suggests, that “the majority of patients (greater than 90%)” who believe they have an allergy to penicillin may not be. “Most people lose their penicillin allergy over time, even patients with a history of severe reaction such as anaphylaxis.”

Why did I think I was allergic? I was 16 to 18 years old, but it was definitely before I went to college. I had a cold or maybe the flu that lingered. My doctor gave me a shot of penicillin. In fairly short order, I itched like crazy, especially on my arms. For three days, calamine lotion became my best friend. It was so PINK.

On Veterans Day 2020, I received a penicillin skin test. I got poked four times on my forearm. The fourth one itched a bit; that was a marker to make sure I had not in fact taken an antihistamine such as Zyrtec in the past 72 hours, as instructed. I passed that hurdle. Then a couple more series of tests. The whole procedure took about three hours, including talking with my allergist afterward.

There is a good reason for me to know this information. If I were to have major surgery, such as for this situation, one doesn’t want to deal with the complicating factor of this patient having a bad reaction from the antibiotic.

Go to the link above for a couple of podcasts, including Penicillin Allergies: Over-diagnosed and Under-addressed.

The peanut

Since we’re on the broad topic, my daughter is for sure allergic to peanuts. I found this article on the nose. ” Things I Wish I’d Known About Raising A Child With A Peanut Allergy. My daughter’s diagnosis made me realize just how misunderstood life-threatening allergies are.” That is for CERTAIN, especially when she was younger.

The plan is for her to be in one of those trials that will, over time, to become acclimated to small bits of peanut. Unfortunately, because of COVID, that testing, to take place over several weeks, has been postponed. I do hope she gets the chance to participate in the next year.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Am I allergic to penicillin?”

  1. For years I had it in my medical records I was allergic after getting hives (on my feet) after some doses of it for a sinus infection. Some years later, the doctor I was going to (an allergist) said that that was unlikely a serious allergy, and challenge tested me with amoxicillin (I had another sinus infection). No reaction, so I took it.

    Turns out I’m actually allergic to sulfa antibiotics. Not anaphylactically, at least not yet, but after getting some for suspected cellulitis in an insect bite….and dealing with several days of incredibly bad hives, jitterynes, and inability to sleep, my doctor said “Yeah you should never take those again” and put a note in my file.

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