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Millions misdiagnosed with penicillin allergies

Many New Yorkers who have been told they have a penicillin allergy can actually tolerate the drug, according to a study. The research, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says that many Americans who believe they have an allergy to the antibiotic have been initially misdiagnosed or have grown out of it.

According to the study, approximately 90 percent of those who have been diagnosed with a penicillin allergy are able to take it. Experts say that a misdiagnosis often occurs when a child is given a course of penicillin for an infection and develops a side effect such as a rash. This leads to the child being labeled as penicillin allergic for life, but, in some cases, the side effect is unrelated to penicillin. For example, one child was labeled penicillin allergic when he was actually allergic to a control substance in the injection. It is estimated that 25 to 30 million Americans believe they are allergic to penicillin when they are not.

Penicillin-related antibiotics have a long safety record and few side effects. Experts say a simple skin test can determine if someone is truly allergic to penicillin. The process takes around three hours.

A misdiagnosis can result in a great deal of harm to a patient. In regards to penicillin, people who are erroneously determined to be allergic may instead be given an antibiotic that is less effective for the illness that they actually have, resulting in a worsened condition. People who have been harmed in such a manner may want to speak with an attorney to see if the misdiagnosis amounted to medical malpractice.

Source: NBC News, "Allergic to Penicillin? Millions in the U.S. May Be Misdiagnosed," Lauren Dunn and Linda Carroll, Nov. 25, 2016

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