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Prevalence of penicillin allergies could be overblown

When New York physicians label patients with a penicillin allergy without testing for the condition, they could be denying people access to effective treatments in the future. During the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, attendees learned that approximately 90 percent of people diagnosed with penicillin allergies could take the drug without serious consequences. Physicians either misdiagnosed the people to begin with, or the people outgrew the sensitivity.

A professor of medicine and pharmacology noted that people considered penicillin-allergic might have to take a different kind of antibiotic if they develop a serious infection. The alternative medicine might not be as effective as penicillin, or it could trigger other side effects.

She estimated that 25 to 50 million people might be making medical decisions based on an allergy that they do not actually have. Their allergy diagnoses might have come during childhood when they had rashes after taking penicillin. A skin test coupled with a low dose of the antibiotic could allow them to confirm the allergy or learn that they can take penicillin safely.

This type of misdiagnosis could result in a great deal of harm to a patient. In addition to the possibility of suffering from side effects from a different antibiotic, the one that was prescribed may mask the symptoms of the actual infection, leading to a worsened medical condition. Patients who have been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with an attorney in order to see if the doctor error constituted medical malpractice.

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