Penicillin allergy testing

Penicillin and other related antibiotics are the oldest and widely used antibiotics in the market. They are active against a variety of infections, affordable and generally tolerated well. It is sad to note that penicillin allergy is common. In studies conducted, when individuals who report to be allergic are tested for the allergy, almost 90% are not allergic and able to take the medication just fine.

The testing for penicillin allergy is available and it is a simple procedure. Most often, it will determine if an individual is actually allergic to the antibiotic or no longer allergic. Remember that most doctors are capable of performing penicillin allergy testing.

Avoidance of penicillin can lead to other issues

Many individuals with penicillin allergy merely avoid using penicillin and other related antibiotics since there are various options available in case of an infection. On the other hand, based on studies conducted, it shows that when an individual is considered allergic to penicillin, various complications can manifest as a result of being given other types of antibiotics.

First, the cost of using non-penicillin antibiotics drastically increases. Based on studies, it reveals that the average cost of antibiotics in an individual with the allergy is higher than those without the allergy.


Penicillin is capable of triggering allergic reactions in some individuals due to its ability to bind with the proteins in the blood and on cells in the body to stimulate the immune system.

Second, using non-penicillin antibiotics particularly in the hospital setting puts the individual at risk for developing infections by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Finally, using non-penicillin based antibiotics can put an individual at increased risk for developing Clostridium difficile colitis which is a life-threatening infection involving the intestines that is triggered by the usage of potent antibiotics.

Can penicillin trigger allergic reactions?

Penicillin is capable of triggering allergic reactions in some individuals due to its ability to bind with the proteins in the blood and on cells in the body to stimulate the immune system. This process is called as haptenization which causes the immune system to be improved in recognizing the penicillin as an allergen. Take note that sensitization or the production of allergic antibodies to penicillin occur which trigger allergic reactions once the individual is exposed to penicillin in the future.

Components of penicillin allergy testing

A penicillin allergy testing consists of a variety of skin testing methods such as the prick skin test and intradermal skin test to penicillin and penicillin metabolites. Most doctors perform skin testing with penicillin G (injectable form of penicillin in liquid form), Pre-Pen and minor determinant mixture (MDM) that includes additional “minor” metabolites.

Allergy blood tests are also available for penicillin allergy testing but they are not highly accurate and should not be used as a substitute for penicillin allergy skin testing.

How penicillin allergy testing is performed

Generally, the skin prick test is performed first which can identify highly sensitive individuals. In case the skin prick test is positive, the individual is considered allergic to penicillin and no additional testing is performed.

If the skin prick test is negative, an intradermal skin test is carried out using the same materials. The intradermal skin testing identifies if the individual is allergic, but potentially dangerous among highly sensitive individuals. This is the reason why skin prick testing is performed first.


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