Many people who report having a penicillin allergy don't have a true allergy. They may have had a reaction to penicillin, such as certain types of rash, but not all reactions are allergies. Penicillin allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy skin
- Swollen lips, tongue or face (angioedema)
The most serious allergic reaction to penicillin is an anaphylactic (an-uh-fuh-LAK-tik) response, which can be life-threatening. Anaphylactic reactions develop immediately after penicillin exposure in highly sensitive people. Signs and symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Swelling of the throat or tongue
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid or weak pulse
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency medical care if you think you or someone else is having an anaphylactic reaction.
If you have less severe reactions after taking penicillin, talk to your doctor. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will aid in making a diagnosis.
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.