Allergy Skin Testing

The Penicillin Skin Test

Penicillin was a historically revolutionary drug. It was the first prescribed antibiotic for syphilis, streptococci and staphylococci infections. Though some viruses have over time developed resistance to penicillin, it is still preferred over wide spread antibiotics for some ailments. This jump-started research into antibiotic therapies and the refocus on transmissible agents as a cause for infections. In many ways penicillin is considered a miracle drug.

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A History of Resistance

For many patients, penicillin is out of the question due to a perceived penicillin allergy. Usually this test is carried out in infancy and the diagnosis is carried without retesting for decades, if not a lifetime. A perceived history of penicillin allergy can now be more commonly tested with an easy to read skin test. The real surprising part is that most people who believe they are allergic just aren’t.

The Penicillin Skin Test

When is comes to a past history of penicillin allergy, some patients are more certain than others. Often this history is based on an adverse reaction that includes anything from a skin rash to anaphylactic shock. Subjects who reported an adverse reaction to penicillin where tested again as adults for the allergy.

Approximately 90% of test subject test negative for a penicillin allergy. It is important to note that since the margin of error is large (between 3-10%), penicillin should still not be taken for those who have had a life threatening adverse reaction. Still, this is excellent news for patients who have only vague histories of a penicillin allergy.


According to the Center for Disease Control, only 10% of penicillin allergy patients will retain an allergy throughout their lives. Evidence suggests that penicillin sensitivity may decrease over time. There is also a desensitizing procedure for positive tested subjects. This involves administering small and then incrementally larger doses of penicillin in a controlled hospital setting. The procedure lasts 14 hours and is effective in most patients.

Summing Up

To sum up, if you have a history a penicillin allergy there is a good chance nothing is wrong with you. To this day, there are still a score of medical reasons to use penicillin that make it still a revolutionary drug. Take the penicillin skin test to confirm whether or not you have this allergy. It is worth a shot and the results may surprise you.

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• Meet the Author • Matthew Sommer

Matthew writes health tips and helps people to compare free insurance quotes.

3 comments… add one
  • Patients who have a positive skin test to one of the penicillin determinants can be desensitized ( Table 1 ). This is a straightforward, relatively safe procedure that can be performed orally or IV. Although the two approaches have not been compared, oral desensitization is regarded as safer and easier to perform. Patients should be desensitized in a hospital setting because serious IgE-mediated allergic reactions can occur. Desensitization usually can be completed in approximately 4–12 hours, after which time the first dose of penicillin is administered. After desensitization, patients must be maintained on penicillin continuously for the duration of the course of therapy.


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