You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to an allergist, a doctor who specializes in allergies.
To be sure you get the information you need, it's good to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Document any exposure to penicillin, when it occurred and what type of reaction you had.
- If you develop a rash after taking penicillin, take a photograph of the rash to show your doctor. A photo can be helpful in making a diagnosis.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications you're taking, including vitamins and supplements.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions before your appointment will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important. For penicillin allergy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause for my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- How is a penicillin allergy treated?
- How can I avoid penicillin and what alternatives are there?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that may occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What was your dose of penicillin and how did you take it (by mouth or by injection)?
- Do you have any allergies, including hay fever or allergies to certain foods?
- Is there a history of allergies in your family?
- If you had symptoms after taking penicillin, how long did it take for the symptoms to develop?
What you can do in the meantime
If you suspect you have a penicillin allergy, don't take penicillin or related antibiotics. Your doctor can determine whether it's safe for you to take penicillin.
Dec. 15, 2011
- Solensky R. Allergy to penicillins. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Oct. 17, 2011.
- Penicillin allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/drug-allergy/Pages/penicillin-allergy.aspx. Accessed Oct. 17, 2011.
- Drug hypersensitivity. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/immunology_allergic_disorders/allergic_and_other_hypersensitivity_disorders/drug_hypersensitivity.html#v996144. Accessed Sept. 12, 2011.
- Torres MJ, et al. The complex clinical picture of b-lactam hypersensitivity: Penicillins, cephalosporins, monobactams, carbapenems, and clavams. Medical Clinics of North America. 2010;94:805.
- B-Lactams. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious_diseases/bacteria_and_antibacterial_drugs/%CE%B2-lactams.html?qt=lactam&alt=sh. Accessed Oct. 18, 2011.
- Macy E, et al. Use of commercial anti-penicillin IgE fluorometric enzyme immunoassays to diagnose penicillin allergy. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2010;105:136.