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Many people may be misdiagnosed with penicillin allergy

Some Pennsylvania residents who have been told they are allergic to penicillin may actually not be. A study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting found that up to 90 percent of people diagnosed with an allergy to the drug might be misdiagnosed. This means that as many as 50 million Americans might believe they have an allergy to penicillin when they do not.

There can be a number of consequences to this misdiagnosis. Penicillin is a powerful drug, and substitutes may not work as well. Other antibiotics may also have side effects that the person would not experience with penicillin. In one case, a nursing mother had to choose between penicillin that she believed might send her into anaphylactic shock or another drug that could be passed on to her child. In fact, she did not have an allergy to the drug.

The confusion often occurs when a person is given penicillin as a child and has a reaction such as a rash. When a physician assumes that this is a reaction to the penicillin, it may go into the child's medical records and remain there. However, a simple test can check for a penicillin allergy. It takes about three hours and involves an oral dose and a skin test.

The misdiagnosis of an allergy, the failure to diagnose a serious illness, or other medical errors could lead to serious consequences, including a worsened condition requiring additional expensive medical care. Patients who have been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see if they have the potential for seeking compensation for their losses through a lawsuit filed against the negligent practitioner.

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