Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Penicillin Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to some substance that is normally known to be rather harmless in most people. In the case of a penicillin allergy, the immune system will react to a dosage of penicillin as well as related antibiotics. A penicillin allergy is considered to be the most common drug allergy all over the world because of the fact that antibiotics containing penicillin are widely prescribed when dealing with bacterial infections within the body. Studies have shown that while the allergy is a very common one, there are also a number of people that believe they suffer from the allergy but do not. These individuals are likely to be less sensitive to penicillin than they once were, but they do not suffer from an allergy. The only way to substantiate the presence of an allergy is to have a skin test performed.

Tests Recommended

Penicillin allergy tests are essential in order to help diagnose the condition and help an individual lead a better life. The skin test is a medical test that can help determine your sensitivity to the drug and will be carried out by the doctor injecting a small amount of penicillin to the skin of the forearm or back. In the event a reaction starts to develop around the area where the penicillin was injected, it is a clear indication of the individual suffering from an allergy to penicillin. In the event that the skin test does not show any reaction, the skin test will affirm that you do not have a penicillin allergy. No prior preparation is required for when you go into a skin test. You need to continue with your daily routine as you would on any other day during the week.


With regards to the various penicillin allergy causes, the primary cause of the reaction is that the immune system responds to the drugs as if they were harmful substances. It therefore triggers certain cells to produce a chemical known as immunoglobulin E to fight the components of penicillin to which your body may be allergic. There are a number of different types of penicillin and in the event that you are allergic to one type of the substance, chances are that you are allergic to all of them. Contrary to popular belief, no one is actually born allergic to penicillin and the allergy is primarily likely to develop only once you are excessively exposed to the drug. While there is no real evidence to suggest why some people are more prone to the development of penicillin allergies than others, some factors that are believed to play a role in the condition include age - where individuals between the ages of 20 to 49 are more prone to the condition that others on either side of those ages; suffering from HIV / AIDS; suffering from cystic fibrosis and the presence of some other drug related allergy.


Understanding and being able to identify the various penicillin allergy symptoms will go a long way into helping you correctly diagnose the reaction as soon as possible. This will help you to take corrective steps to prevent the reaction from getting much worse. The most common symptoms of penicillin allergies include hives, inflammation of the face, lips and tongue as well as significantly itchy eyes. The condition could also cause some significant difficulty in breathing -thereby leading to wheezing, dizziness and a loss of conscious. In rare but very severe cases of the condition, the reaction could lead to anaphylaxis. One should also know that severe reactions to penicillin can be very serious and life threatening, and therefore it is important that you have the diagnostic tests performed on your body as soon as possible. The mild symptoms can easily be controlled and subdued with the help of antihistamines that can be purchased off the shelf without the requirement of a prescription. For individuals suffering from a more severe case of the allergy, hospitalization and epinephrine shots may be required.


With regards to penicillin allergy treatment, the only way to guarantee that you will not suffer from a reaction is to ensure that you stay away from any medication that contains penicillin. Because of the fact that the allergy is a rather common one, there are a number of alternatives available in the market, but you will need to make it a point to inform your pharmacist that you are allergic to penicillin every time you purchase some medication. Penicillin desensitization is a procedure that will be required to be performed in the event that the doctor suggests that penicillin is the only drug that can help you fight a certain infection. During this process, a small amount of penicillin is gradually administered either orally or intravenously and in a very controlled environment. This procedure should never be carried out at home.