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Study suggests most people aren't allergic to penicillin

A common allergy reported by people in Montana and other states seeking medical treatment is penicillin. However, a new study suggests most individuals are not actually allergic to this widely used antibiotic. Published in a leading medical journal, the study concluded that 95 percent of the estimated 32 million people believed to be allergic to penicillin can take this medicine without experiencing reactions. Penicillin is an antibacterial drug with a long history of being used to help patients with bacterial infections.

While the study doesn't give reasons for the tendency to classify individuals as being allergic to penicillin, one possibility is that some children may be mistakenly given this antibiotic for what's really a viral infection. If they have a negative reaction, a doctor may err on the side of caution and consider a patient allergic to this particular medicine. Other times, there may be a desire to reduce the risk of related medical malpractice issues by being overly cautious. Viral infections are also commonly accompanied by rashes, which could be misinterpreted as an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Additional research suggests that a third of all prescriptions for antibiotics are likely not needed.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that most patients with genuine allergic reactions to penicillin eventually grow out of their allergy within a five-year period. However, doctors may continue to label patients who are no longer allergic to this antibiotic as still being allergic, which may result in prescriptions for other antibiotics that are not as effective as penicillin. One suggestion that researchers offer to address penicillin issues is to increase instances of performing skin tests to confirm a suspected allergy.

Misdiagnosing someone as being allergic to penicillin isn't necessarily the type of doctor error that may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit. An attorney typically considers the unique facts of each situation. For instance, a lawyer may be able to make a case for negligence against a medical professional who failed to identify a viral infection and recommended a treatment for a bacterial infection that ended up doing serious harm to a patient.

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