Troubling fact of the day: according to researchers from Vanderbilt University, an estimated 96% of penicillin allergy sufferers have no existing sensitivities to the life-saving antibiotic. It’s an intriguing finding and one that doctors around the world are beginning to take note of.
Now, if you are one of the roughly 10% of Americans currently living with a “diagnosed” penicillin allergy, know that the news doesn’t mean that you can just eschew your doctor’s claims, even if they were made hastily. That said, it should make you think twice about your longterm health plan.
You see, most people who declare the allergy were diagnosed during their childhood years following a reaction while taking the medicine. Generally, the reactions are not life-threatening–they might include a rash, hives, and the like–but they are usually serious enough for general practitioners to worry. After all, if a child develops what looks like an allergic reaction after being prescribed the antibiotic, doctors would rather play it safe and pull the option from them altogether.
Sounds like a reasonable plan, right? Well, when you dig just a bit beneath the surface, you’ll see that the speedy diagnoses do a lot more harm than good. For starters, doctors are not technically qualified to determine medication allergies. The only way a patient can be 100% sure their allergic reaction might be blamed on the antibiotic is if they receive tests conducted by an allergist.
What makes it even scarier is the fact that those who actively avoid penicillin, whether its due to a legitimate allergy or not, might actually experience sizable health issues throughout their lives.
According to information compiled by the group National Penicillin Allergy Day, penicillin allergy patients incur costs up to 63% higher than those without the allergy. To make it even worse, those who shun penicillin (after receiving both legitimate and illegitimate diagnoses), could experience “10% more hospital days, 30% higher incidence of VRE infections, 23% higher incidence of C difficile infections, and 14% higher incidence of MRSA infections,” in hospital settings.
Very scary stuff!
Lucky for us, though, doctors and health systems around the country are beginning to institute initiatives that changes the way they handle penicillin allergies and diagnoses. One example of this is Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The influential healthcare facility is employing technology to determine whether or not its patients’ allergies have been diagnosed properly. This is done through a series of in-depth questionnaires that have been created by expert allergists.
To learn more about Massachusetts General Hospital’s innovative new look at penicillin allergies, and to get the full list of antibiotics that fall under the penicillin umbrella, be sure to watch the video below. If you have been diagnosed with a penicillin allergy, but haven’t undergone testing by an allergist, we hope this information will inspire you to set an appointment!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this penicillin allergy shocker. Are you surprised that so few people are actually allergic to the antibiotic? Have you been misdiagnosed with a penicillin allergy? If so, did you experience adverse health effects due to the flub?