Many clinicians who have patients with a penicillin allergy listed on their charts do not know that a diagnosis for a penicillin allergy is frequently given to a child as a result of a rash without any follow-up testing, according to data presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Approximately 10% of Americans are labeled with a penicillin allergy, while others have an “allergic history” to certain antibiotics. These patients are often prescribed more toxic and expensive antibiotics that might not be necessary.

Researchers examined 276 surveys of clinicians at Rochester Regional Health in New York. The results of the survey showed that 80% of the clinicians are aware of the need for allergy consultation but had never referred their patients to an allergist.

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The survey also showed that only 30% of the clinicians who responded to the survey knew that about 90% of patients with a penicillin allergy can tolerate penicillin-like antibiotics. In addition, less than half knew that a penicillin allergy can resolve over time, and only 20% identified appropriate patients for penicillin skin testing.

“The survey showed us there is a lack of understanding among internists and general practitioners regarding the need for testing the large numbers of people who report penicillin allergy but have never been tested,” stated Dipekka Soni, MD, lead author of the study. “Unfortunately, specialty physicians and non-internal medicine physicians had an even lower rate of referring those with reported penicillin allergy to an allergist for testing, 93% and 88% respectively.”


  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Many doctors still don’t know facts about penicillin allergy [press release]. Presented at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting: November 10-14, 2016, San Francisco, CA.