Using Antibiotics Safely

Information from the experts about using prescription antibiotics safely


​​Have a penicillin allergy?

Lots of people think they are allergic to certain types of antibiotics, like penicillin. In reality, true penicillin allergies to antibiotics aren’t very common. Ten percent of patients report a penicillin allergy, but studies show that 90% of these people do not have a true allergy. For example, a rash that is caused by an infection can be incorrectly thought to be caused by an antibiotic taken at the same time. We also often outgrow allergies, so a true allergy in childhood may not happen again as an adult.  


What is so bad about having a mislabeled antibiotic allergy?

Many common infections are best treated with antibiotics from the penicillin family (such as amoxicillin or ampicillin). If a person has been labeled allergic to penicillin without a proper evaluation by their health care provider, other antibiotics are used instead. These antibiotics often have worse side effects and are not as effective. Sometimes the alternative antibiotic used is too broad and can lead to antibiotic resistance.  


How are allergies diagnosed or removed?

The diagnosis of an antibiotic allergy is made clinically. This means that your health care provider relies on the history and signs and symptoms of the reaction to make the diagnosis rather than a test. In some cases, antibiotic allergies are diagnosed after a person takes a supervised dose of the medication and has a reaction. Talk to your healthcare provider to revisit a penicillin allergy and de-label if appropriate.   


Where can I learn more about penicillin allergies?

Learn more here: Drop The Label