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Are You Allergic to Penicillin?

Probably not, suggests results of skin tests reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The new study shows that more than 90 percent of patients who report a penicillin allergy in fact test negative for it, a finding which has important implications for how infections are treated in the emergency department and elsewhere.

“Penicillin is the drug of choice for a lot of emergency patients, because it’s effective and inexpensive, but we can’t give it to people who say they are allergic to it,” said study author Joseph J. Moellman, MD, of the University of Cincinnati Department of Emergency Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The use of a 30-minute penicillin skin test as a standard procedure for patients who need antibiotics and claim a penicillin allergy could be both cost-effective and better for patient care.”

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