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Highland Park Allergy and Asthma Specialists

  • HP Allergy and Asthma Specialists

Are you REALLY allergic to Penicillin?

Penicillin is one of the most frequently used antibiotics in the world. The penicillin family includes over 15 chemically related medications such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, augmentin, methicillin. Approximately 10% of all people in the United States reports a history of penicillin allergy. However, 90-95% of people reporting a penicillin allergy are not really allergic to penicillin. There are many reasons people make be mistakenly labeled penicillin allergy:

(1) Penicillin allergy diminishes or resolves over several years, so one may not be allergic anymore. Approximately 80% of penicillin allergic patients lose their penicillin sensitivity over 10 years.

(2) Penicillin allergy was misdiagnosed. For example, many viruses can cause rashes. If the patient is on penicillin at the time the doctor cannot know if the rash was from the penicillin or from the illness itself.

(3) Another medication taken at the same time as penicillin may have caused the reaction.

(4) The patient or physician is reporting a penicillin allergy, when in fact the reaction is an adverse reaction and not a true allergy, such as diarrhea or upset stomach.

It is important to find out if you are penicillin allergy because patient labeled penicillin allergic are treated more frequently with broad-spectrum antibiotics which can result in

· Increased antibiotic resistance

· Higher medical/medication costs

· Increased days of hospitalization

· Compromised medical care

· Increased morbidity and mortality

Luckily, there is an allergy test for penicillin allergy. Skin testing to penicillin followed by an oral challenge is the most reliable method for evaluating true penicillin allergy. It is a safe, highly sensitive test. It involves skin testing first and if negative, is followed by giving an oral dose of penicillin or amoxicillin to confirm that it is safe to use this antibiotic. Blood testing for penicillin allergy is less sensitive and specific and thus is not an appropriate substitute for penicillin skin testing. It is best to undergo penicillin skin testing when you are well and not immediately requiring the antibiotic. Delaying testing until an emergency situation arises raises the risk of illness and death in addition to overall medical costs. It is important to know that just because a family member is allergic to penicillin does not mean you will be. There is no predictable genetic inheritance pattern to penicillin allergy. You do not need to avoid penicillin if a family member is allergic to penicillin or a drug in the penicillin family. If you have any questions regarding penicillin allergy, you can always call your local allergist today.

  • HP Allergy and Asthma Specialists

In Texas, we long for Fall when the sweltering heat will come to an end. However, the beginning of Fall also means Fall allergies. Preparing ahead of time is the best way to protect yourself. Here are some recommendations that may help:

1.) Treat ahead of time.

Start your allergy medication about 2 weeks before the pollen starts. Over the counter antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays can help treat allergy symptoms but also work preventatively to reduce inflammation and the development of symptoms. Allergy shots are the only option that treat the underlying cause of allergies. These work great but can take awhile before they are effective. Typically, it takes a few months to start feeling relief with the traditional shot program, but there are accelerated options that can provide relief in weeks to even days. Ask your allergist about your options.

2.) Keep your windows closed.

It seems every Spring and Fall in North Texas we only have a few weeks where the weather is so perfect it is truly enjoyable to be outside. It can be tempting to open your windows during this time, but this can bring pollen inside your homes or cars.

3.) Do yard work the smart way.

Whether you love yard work or find it to be your most daunting chore, allergies can make it unpleasant. Timing is important. Pollen counts are usually highest mid-day and afternoon hours. Try to pick other times to do your yard work. Wearing a mask can help as well. An N95 would be ideal, and most of us have those now! Large sunglasses can help prevent the pollen and mold from irritating your eyes. Hats, long pants, and long sleeves can help prevent pollen from sticking in your hair and on your skin as well as from skin irritation. Remember to try to rake piles of leaves quickly to prevent mold and pollen from collecting on them. Mowing the lawn before it gets too long can prevent it from flowering and making pollen. When you are finished with yard work, make sure to shower and change into fresh clothes. Also using a nettipot or saline irrigations can help wash out some of the pollen you have inhaled in your nasal cavity.

4.) Try to reduce possible indoor allergens as well.

The more allergens you are exposed to, the worse you will feel. Controlling the allergens in your home can help control your symptoms as well. Doing a deep clean of your house can help remove dust allergens and any pollen that has already made its way inside. Using dust mite covers on your pillows and mattresses can help with dust mite allergy. Make sure there is no mold in your house, and ensure the humidity level is less than 50% to prevent mold growth.

  • HP Allergy and Asthma Specialists

When you are looking for medical care for either you or your family member, you want to make sure you are seeing the most qualified doctor. Of course, you want a doctor who takes their time talking with you and truly cares about you, but you also want to make sure that your physician is up to date on the present-day medical literature and guidelines. This ensures that you receive the best treatment currently available based on all evidence and research. The best way to do this is to make sure your doctor is board certified. You may have heard this term but are not sure what it really means. To become a doctor, one must graduate medical school, internship, and residency. Then they must take a state licensing exam. However, after this some doctors decide to take an extra step to become board certified. Obtaining board certification is not mandatory for practicing medicine like the state license is. Many doctors go above and beyond the minimal requirements and choose to take the optional step of becoming board certified. This requires extra education and testing.

There are different boards for each specialty. Some boards even have subspecialties. For example, if you are a dermatologist, you can be board certified with The American Board of Dermatology, but they also offer sub-specialty certification in dermatopathology and pediatric dermatology. Be aware that not all boards are equal when it comes to requirement for membership. The most well-known boards are The American Board of Medical Specialties which comprises 40 specialties and 87 subspecialties, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Board of Physician Specialties. These boards have a minimum set of competency standards. There are some boards that do not require those competencies for various reasons and are not members of these organizations. Almost all boards require you to take and pass a written test in order to achieve board certification. Some boards also require oral exams. Most boards continue to require retesting throughout your career to remain board certified. Thus, even if your doctor was once board certified, it does not mean they currently still are. The best way to see if your doctor or the doctor you are thinking of scheduling an appointment with is board certified is to check on the corresponding board’s website. For example, on the website for The American Board of Allergy and Immunology there is a link ( to search for a physician’s name to see if they are currently up to date with board certification.

Research and technology advances medicine rapidly resulting in new testing, new treatment options, and updated guidelines. Consequently, it is very important that all physicians are constantly studying and reading the literature. Board certification ensures that they do so. According to The American Board of Medical Specialties, you can be confident that a board-certified physician “is skilled and knowledgeable, an expert in their specialty, and meets a higher standard developed and overseen by volunteer doctors.” When you are finding the doctor right for you, feel free to read the online reviews but remember to take the extra step to make sure that he or she is board certified in the specialty they are practicing.