Ten percent of the population suspects they are allergic to penicillin, when in fact less than 1% actually are allergic. Furthermore, 80% of penicillin allergic individuals appear to lose that allergy after 10 years. Suspecting a penicillin allergy, when there is not really one present, can be harmful and dangerous to an individual. Instead of using penicillin, those patients may receive antibiotics that are not as effective or that have more side effects.
Therefore, it is now recommended that patients with suspected penicillin allergy consider clarifying their allergy with penicillin allergy testing. To perform this test, a small amount of penicillin, as well as special form of the allergic component of penicillin, called PRE-PEN™, is tested on the superficial layers of the skin. If the test is negative, then a test dose of penicillin is typically given in the office in a controlled setting to verify that no allergy is present. The patient may then receive penicillin and related medications in the future. Fortunately, in most cases, patients end up testing negative to penicillin and we are able to remove the falsely suspected penicillin allergy from their chart.