Once Labeled, Always Labeled: Addressing Misconceptions About Penicillin Allergies


Elizabeth Phillips, MD, FRCPC, FRACP, addresses the misconceptions about penicillin allergies.

Elizabeth Phillips, MD, FRCPC, FRACP, Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology, and Pathology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, addresses the misconceptions about penicillin allergies.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“I think that there’s a lot of misperceptions about antibiotic allergy, and penicillin in particular. There’s this overriding superstition that once [someone’s] labeled, [they’re] always labeled, and I think the educational aspect of it is huge.

I think education around the fact that most patients, in fact, 99% of patients that are labeled, are unlikely to have true penicillin allergy. Penicillin allergy is something that does tend to wane over time; and so, even if a patient mechanistically has had a defined true allergy—a serious, life-threatening allergy—at some point in their life, they tend to lose the tendency to that over time to the point that after about 10 years, there’s a very good chance they would be no longer allergic.

I think the take-home message is it’s always worth considering—regardless of the severity of the reaction or the history—the ‘work-up’ of somebody that has actually been labeled with penicillin allergy.”

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