If you think you are allergic to penicillin, ask your doctor about being tested to confirm it, since at least 90 out of 100 people are mistaken about this and can tolerate this antibiotic, according to a recent review on the evaluation and management of penicillin allergy in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
About 10 percent of Americans report that they have a history of penicillin allergy, but only a small fraction of them are truly allergic. As a result, instead of tried-and-true penicillin, most of them end up unnecessarily taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is more expensive and is more likely to have side effects. Moreover, overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics can promote bacterial resistance to them.
This applies to children, too: Most who are thought to be allergic to penicillin by their parents actually are not when tested by an allergist. And even children who do have the allergy often outgrow it.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see How Common Are Food Allergies?