Roughly 10% of the population believes they have a penicillin allergy. The truth is that fewer than 10% of people with a reported penicillin allergy actually have one. This topic has garnered significant attention recently after a large review article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted this important issue. The article – jointly endorsed by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America – urges individuals who have been diagnosed to confirm with a certified allergist for a variety of reasons.
Even if someone had a true allergic reaction to penicillin, this particular allergy often dissipates after about ten years. Once someone has confirmed with an allergist that they are no longer allergic, the patient often times has better future treatment of infections, fewer dangerous side effects of the antibiotics used in place of penicillin, and overall lower cost of care. Penicillins tend to be safer to use than the antibiotics which are used instead in those who are labeled as allergic.
Patients can get mislabeled as allergic to penicillin in a number of ways. They may have experienced drug-related side effects like, headaches, nausea or diarrhea, which are not true allergic reactions. Alternatively, they may develop a rash. While rashes can be a sign of an allergic reaction, many rashes that occur with amoxicillin or penicillin are actually caused an underlying viral illness. One visit to a board-certified allergist can help determine of the allergy is still present.
Our 3 board-certified allergists are happy to help confirm if you have a penicillin allergy. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (651) 641-6134.
So, what do you need to know about Penicillin?
1. What is penicillin?
The penicillin family of antibiotics contains over 15 chemically related drugs (e.g. penicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, methicillin) that are given by mouth or injection for the treatment of many bacterial infections. It is one of the most frequently used classes of antibiotics in the world.
2. How common in penicillin allergy?
Approximately 10% of patients report an allergy to penicillin. However, most patients (greater than 90%) may not truly be allergic. Most people lose their penicillin allergy over time, even patients with a history of severe reaction such as anaphylaxis.
3. How do I know if I am still allergic to penicillin?
A highly sensitive penicillin skin test is available to diagnose penicillin allergy and can be used to determine if you are allergic to penicillin. An allergist / immunologist can perform this testing, and if it is negative, there is a very high chance that the allergy is no longer present.
4. Is penicillin allergy genetic?
There is no predictable pattern to inheritance of penicillin allergy. You do not need to avoid penicillin if a family member is allergic to penicillin or drugs in the penicillin family.
5. Do I need to see an allergist / immunologist if I already know that I am allergic to penicillin?
Even if you think you are allergic to penicillin, allergies change over time and it is worth discussing your history with your allergist / immunologist who may suggest testing to help clarify your allergy history.
6. I was told that I was allergic to amoxicillin, do I still need to see an allergist / immunologist?
Amoxicillin is in the same family of antibiotics as penicillin. Your allergist / immunologist can review your history and perform skin testing to help you understand if you are still allergic to amoxicillin. This skin testing is similar to penicillin skin testing.
7. Is skin testing painful and what are the risks?
A skin prick test, also called a scratch test, checks for immediate allergy and is the first step in skin testing. Skin prick testing is usually not painful. You won’t bleed or feel more than mild, momentary discomfort. Intradermal skin testing is the second part of the evaluation and involves injecting the skin. The test, if positive, will cause local itching and redness with swelling at the site where the test is performed. Systemic reactions such as hives can occur but are very rare and allergist / immunologists are prepared to treat such reactions.
8. Do I need to avoid other drugs if I am allergic to penicillin?
This largely depends on your history and an allergist / immunologist can help clear this up. It is generally recommended that you avoid all drugs in the immediate penicillin family (amoxicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, piperacillin-tazobactam as well as certain drugs in the cephalosporin class (a closely related class to penicillins). Although the cephalosporins are close relatives of penicillins and share a structure called the beta-lactam ring, the risk of a cross-reactivity reaction between penicillins and cephalosporins remains <5%. Therefore, even with a true allergy to penicillin, there is an excellent chance you could tolerate cephalosporins.
Modified from a recent Q&A published by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/penicillin-allergy-faq
People who suffer from allergies may start sneezing and wheezing in the fall, but there are things they can do to ease their seasonal misery.
Climate change may actually be causing an earlier and longer fall allergy season and wind can carry the pollen from ragweed, grasses and trees up to 100 miles from its source.
Plan ahead. So-called “fall” allergens actually start to appear in mid-August. If you rely on allergy medication, start taking it about two weeks before your symptoms appear. It’s also important to not stop taking your allergy medication until pollen counts have been down for about two weeks.
Minimize mold. Mold is nearly impossible to eliminate. It tends to grow wherever there is water, particularly basements, bathrooms and near sinks. Mold also lurks outside, even in piles of dead leaves. The best way to limit the growth of mold is to minimize moisture. Use fans in the bathroom and clean up standing water right away. Scrub visible mold from any surfaces and ensure they are kept clean and dry. Keeping the humidity in your home below 60 percent and routinely cleaning gutters is also a good idea.
Avoid pollen. Ragweed and other pollens that trigger allergy symptoms must not be brought into your home. Be sure to take your shoes off when you walk through your door. If you’ve been outside working, exercising or playing, take a shower and change your clothes to wash off any pollen that sticks to your hair or body. Keep your home and car windows closed and use an air conditioner, particularly when pollen counts are high. If you are doing yard work, consider wearing gloves and a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask. Those with severe allergies may want to avoid outdoor chores entirely.
Seek help. An allergist is trained to identify your allergens and provide an individualized treatment plan for you. Aside from allergy medication, these doctors can provide immunotherapy — or allergy shots that target your specific triggers. This can dramatically ease your symptoms.
Always see an allergist to help identify and treat allergies accurately. Call (651) 641-6134 to make an appointment with an allergist today.
The information above is credited to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), written by Dr. Stephen Tilles, President.
Midwest Allergy & Asthma is proud to announce that Dr. Cherie Y. Zachary was selected by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) to share education about ‘Handling Allergies during the Holidays’. Dr. Zachary was featured on the radio during the ACAAI meeting and is also the expert highlighted on local radio stations to increase awareness and, hopefully, relief to listeners. During the interview, Dr. Zachary addresses allergens such as dust mites, mold & animals, and includes helpful hints for listeners to minimize their symptoms. Below are a few of the helpful hints to help you get through the holiday season with allergies! Listen here for the full interview from our Allergy & Asthma Specialist, Dr. Zachary.Minimize Your Winter Allergies
- Throw out shower curtains, wallpaper, or carpeting that have mold. Wash showers and sinks with a solution containing 5% bleach and a little detergent.
- To help control dust mites and mold, use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in your home below 50%.
- Use vaccume with a HEPA filter as dust mites are stirred up when you vaccume. .
- Wash bedding in hot water (130 F) each week to reduce dust mites.
- If someone in your household is allergic to pet dander, consider getting a non-furry pet, such as fish or a lizard. If you already have a cat or dog, don’t let the pet sleep in your bedroom, and give it a bath at least once a week.
- Consider buying an artificial tree. Live trees can harbor chemicals and mold, which can trigger allergic reactions.
- Wash or dust off of ornaments before hanging them on the tree. Buy glass or plastic ornaments rather than fabric, which can collect more dust.
- If you have a pet allergy and your relatives have cats or dogs, make sure to take your allergy medication with you and get your allergy shots beforehand.
- Bring your own pillow when traveling.
Midwest Patient Portal
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Visit your Midwest Patient Portal. Here, you’ll be able to access:
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The Midwest Allergy & Asthma team proudly facilitated Peanut Free Day at the Saint Paul Saints game this past Sunday. The entire stadium elimiated peanuts from their menu. Everything from plain old peanuts to Reeses Peanut Butter Cups were removed from the shelves. Additionally, the Saints agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds to AFAA for food allergy education, advocacy, and support programs! Dr. Zachary and her team of allergy specialists were energetically handing out plush baseballs, ice packs to cool down, and MWAA pens to everyone they saw. If you couldn’t make it out to visit Dr. Zachary at the MWAA booth this year, make sure to keep your eye out for information regarding next years event!
- Climate Change – Recent studies have shown pollen levels gradually increase every year. Part of the reason for this is due to the changing climate. The warmer temperatures and mild winters cause plants to begin producing and releasing pollen earlier, making the spring allergy season longer. Rain can promote plant and pollen growth, while wind accompanying rainfall can stir pollen and mold into the air, heightening symptoms. The climate is not only responsible for making the allergy season longer and symptoms more bothersome, but may also be partially to blame for the rise in allergy sufferers.
- Priming Effect – A mild winter can trigger an early release of pollen from trees. Once allergy sufferers are exposed to this early pollen, their immune system is primed to react to the allergens, meaning there will be little relief even if temperatures cool down before spring is in full bloom. This “priming effect” can mean heightened symptoms and a longer sneezing season for sufferers.
- Hygiene Hypothesis – This theory suggests that exposure to bacterial by-products from farm animals, and even dogs, in the first few months of life reduces or delays the onset of allergies and asthma. This may, in part, explain the increasing incidence of allergies worldwide in developed countries.
- Allergy: The New Kleenex – Ever hear someone ask for a Kleenex instead of a tissue? Much like some relate all tissues to Kleenex, many also blame runny noses, sneezing and itchy eyes on allergies, even if they haven’t been accurately diagnosed. Increased awareness and public education can make it seem like nearly everyone has an allergy or is getting diagnosed with allergies, but it could be more public perception more than you think.
If you view spring with a certain degree of trepidation because it means an outbreak of spring allergy symptoms, you are not alone. One in five Americans suffer from allergies each year and spring allergies cause a multitude of symptoms ranging from stuffy noses and sneezing to itchy eyes and coughing.
According to American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), 23.6 million Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in the last year. The prevalence of allergies is surging upward, with as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children having at least one allergy. As a local allergist who specializes in treating allergy and asthma, I would be happy to speak with you about how allergy sufferers can enjoy the blooms of spring and avoid the triggers that may leave them sniffling, coughing and sneezing.
It’s a War on Pollen during Spring Allergy Season
Some Weapons Work Better than Others to Keep Your Suffering at Bay
While many people eagerly anticipate spring to see the last of cold weather and snow drifts, others dread the sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes and coughing spring allergies bring. They understand the arrival of pollen – whether counts are high or low – means the onset of their misery. But there are ways to prevail in the fight to breathe easy and remain relatively sneeze-free.
“People focus on the highs and lows of pollen counts,” said allergist Cherie Zachary, Midwest Allergy & Asthma. “What they don’t realize is that a high total pollen count doesn’t always mean you will have allergy symptoms. The pollen from the plant you are allergic to may not be high. The key is to know what you’re allergic to, and how to treat your particular symptoms.”
More people than ever suffer from allergies of all kinds. Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. One in five Americans suffer from allergies each year. And though spring can bring lots of sneezing and sniffles, it’s important to remember that there are tools at your disposal – whether your suffering is mild or severe.
Following are some factors to keep in mind as you work to keep your spring allergy symptoms under control.
While there isn’t a cure for spring allergies, there are many treatments an allergist can prescribe and/or provide. For more severe symptoms, two types of immunotherapy are available: allergy shots and tablets.
Allergy shots: An immunotherapy treatment program consists of injections of a diluted allergy extract, administered frequently in increasing doses until a maintenance dose is reached. Immunotherapy helps the body build resistance to the effects of the allergen, reduces the intensity of symptoms caused by allergen exposure and sometimes can actually make skin test reactions, and your allergy, disappear.
Tablets: This type of immunotherapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014. Starting at least three months before allergy season begins, patients dissolve a tablet under the tongue daily. Treatment can continue for as long as three years. Only two allergens (grass and ragweed pollens) can currently be treated with this method, but it is may be a good option for patients with grass pollen allergy not controlled with medications.
If you think you might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergy and asthma, you can track your symptoms with the free online tool, MyNasalAllergyJournal.org. You can also make an appointment with our Allergy & Asthma Specialist, Dr. Cherie Y. Zachary, by calling (651) 641-6134.
Midwest Allergy & Asthma is proud to announce that Dr. Cherie Y. Zachary has been elected to serve on the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) Board of Regents. She was honored to have attended the Annual Scientific Meeting of the ACAAI this past November 2014. Among Dr. Zachary were other renowned Board-Certified Allergy & Asthma physicians all gathered to focus on occuring changes within the realm of allergy & asthma to prepare, achieve and exceed the needs of those in communities. ACAAI is dedicated to its members and to Allergy & Asthma Specialists’ professional vision. The goal is to ensure that physicians are viewed as valued members of the allergist community, navigating the challenging health care landscape.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes.
Recently, a grateful mother shared her experience with Midwest Allergy & Asthma and our Specialist, Dr. Cherie Zachary.
Mom shares, “My children get the best care here. We love Dr. Zachary and would follow her around the world . We see her twice a year and if my kids become ill we see her more. She knows my kids likes and interests and is always willing to take the time to find out what has been going on in their lives!! Top Notch Doctor!!”.
Midwest Allergy & Asthma is committed to helping patients of all ages breathe easier. If you would like to share your story, please share on our social media Facebook site or Healthgrades to help other families choose the highest quality, lowest cost healthcare provider for them.
Dr. Cherie Y. Zachary: Best Doctor
Dr. Cherie Y. Zachary has been chosen by patients as a Top Doc in 2013 as well as Best Doctor in 2014 by her peers. She has been recognized for contributing her 25 years of excellence in providing the best care as an Allergy & Asthma Specialist. These awards consider several factors such as Board scores, bedside manner, cost of care, sense of caring, and if they’d recommend the physician to their family and friends. Midwest Allergy & Asthma is proud to have Dr. Zachary as an outstanding physician named as a Top Doc in 2013 & Best Doctor in 2014.
Dr. Zachary sees patients in Burnsville, Eagan & Maplewood. To make an appointment, please call our scheduling office at (651) 641-6134.