Penicillin allergy is regarded as the most common drug allergy in the world. The percentage of individuals who belong to the category of penicillin allergic patients is estimated to be anywhere between 5 percent to 10 percent. However, it is important to note that the majority of patients among the allergic category are those with general hypersensitivity conditions or reactions. Only a very small percentage of individuals are likely to have severe reactions such as anaphylactic reactions. Following subsection offers this answer – allergic to Penicillin? Which antibiotics can you take? The types of reactions and an overview of substitute antibiotics are also listed out as remedial measures.

What is penicillin allergy?

This refers to any unusual reaction of the immune system when penicillin is administered, as an antibiotic to treat different bacterial infections. For instance, it is used to treat infections of the skin, the ear, the nose, throat, and lungs. It is also used to treat dental infections, apart from urinary tract infections. Penicillin, an antibiotic, could also refer to a group of antibiotics. For instance, certain medications such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, benzylpenicillin, benzathine benzylpenicillin, dicloxacillin, flucloxacillin, phenoxymethylpenicillin and piperacillin.

There are clear tell tale indications of penicillin allergy, and this can help understand if the reactions are simple or adverse in nature. For instance, individuals may experience onset of rashes, or severe itching, and possible symptoms of hives. The more adverse reactions are known as anaphylaxis, and this is to be treated at the earliest, as it could be life endangering in nature. As mentioned earlier, while more individuals and children may experience some kind of allergic reaction to penicillin, the actual nature of allergies may be mild. However, due to the perception that all allergic reactions are serious, penicillin has acquired a dubious distinction. As a result of this perception, patients often end up taking other antibiotics that are not as effective in treating the condition.

How long does it take for an antibiotic allergy to show up?

Penicillin allergies may manifest in an hour of taking the medications in most cases. In certain rare instances, the allergic reactions may flare up later, such as many hours or days later. It is also known to be experienced a few weeks after use of the drug.

The delayed reactions include fever, pain in the joints, outbreak of rashes and swelling, and these are collectively known as serum sickness symptoms.   A reduction in red blood cells may also occur and this could cause overall weakness, change in heart beat rates and a distinct shortness of breath.  Other delayed reactions include increase in white blood cell count, and possible hepatitis infection in patients with a dormant infection. Outbreak of severe blisters and skin peeling may also be experienced.

What are the common allergic reactions to penicillin?

The most common allergic reactions to penicillin include outbreak of skin rashes, and itching as outlined above. Symptoms of hives, possible low grade or high grade fever may also be experienced by patients. Other effects include swelling or inflammation, while some are known to experience difficulty in breathing, and possible wheezing. Reactions also include runny nose and watering from the eyes, that may also abnormally itch at times. The most severe reaction, as mentioned earlier is anaphylaxis

What is Anaphylaxis?

This refers to a condition that impact different systems in the body, and is classified as a severe, life endangering condition. Patients are to be rushed to a suitable health care facility to commence intervention immediately. Symptoms that are indicative of anaphylaxis include a distinct tightening sensation in the throat and the airway, which could make breathing difficult and labored.  The patient may experience feelings of nausea or could end up with cramps in the abdomen. Other symptoms include possible vomiting sensations, while some are known to end up with diarrhea. Individuals may experience abnormal light headed feelings or may feel dizzy as a result of the reaction. The pulse may turn weak or it could increase in rate, while blood pressure levels are known to dip. Other symptoms include seizure episodes, while some may lose consciousness.

Who is at risk of penicillin allergies?

Certain patients are known to be at high risk of penicillin allergies. This includes individuals with a history of atopic allergies, such as hay fever and asthma. Patients diagnosed with a history of Type I allergy, with distinct identifiable symptoms such as urticaria and hypotension are not to be given penicillin. This also includes patients who have received penicillin in the past and have experienced local swelling within three days of receiving the drug.

Allergic to Penicillin? Which antibiotics can you take?

It is now time to look at different alternatives or substitutes. The primary consideration should be to clearly identify substitute antibiotics that are more suitable for the condition, rather than choosing any antibiotic.  One option includes the use of second and third generation cephalosporins, as these formulations possess different side chains to penicillin. Patients who do not have any history of Type I allergies, may be administered cephalosporin or antibiotics belonging to the category of beta lactam antibiotics.  However, individuals diagnosed with a history of Type I allergy are not to be given the above.

Drugs that are safe to use in place of penicillin

Certain drugs are safe to use in place of penicillin, and this includes
tetracyclines, quinolones and macrolides. Other medications that can be administered as a substitute for penicillin include aminoglycosides and glycopeptides. These formulations are not similar or linked to penicillin, and can be used safely with the required level of efficacy.

Why is penicillin a good choice?

Due to the perceptions about penicillin, many individuals often consider staying away from penicillin forever. However, it is important to note that penicillin, in certain circumstances is regarded as the best drug or formulation to treat specific conditions. Various other options exist, such as called broad-spectrum antibiotics. However, these are not the best replacements, as they may not be as effective as penicillin. Additionally, these drugs may build antibiotic resistance, and will become difficult to treat later.

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