If you think you are allergic to penicillin, ask your doctor about being tested to confirm it, since there’s a good chance you are mistaken. According to a new fact sheet from the CDC, 10 percent of Americans report that they have a penicillin allergy, but less than 1 percent are truly allergic. As a result, instead of tried-and-true penicillin, they usually end up with a broad-spectrum antibiotic that not only is more expensive, but also may have more 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 children who do have the allergy usually outgrow it.
If you have a history of an unverified penicillin allergy, ask your doctor about testing, especially before undergoing a procedure that may require antibiotics. The CDC fact sheet explains how penicillin allergy should be evaluated and diagnosed. You can print it out and bring it to your doctor; click here to access it on the CDC website.
Also see Food Allergy or Intolerance?