These symptoms of penicillin allergy may appear within few hours of taking the drug:
In some cases reaction may appear after few days or week, or result in serious, life-threatening symptoms called anaphylaxis. This is characterized by constriction of airways, difficulty in breathing, sudden lowering of blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.
Some people may have rapid or weak pulse rate, bluish skin, nausea, vomiting, or slurred speech as symptoms of drug allergy.
Penicillin may cause some other rare conditions like
Serum sickness – this condition is characterized by joint pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and rashes on skin.
Drug reaction – eosinophilia, swelling in lymph nodes, and rashes are the symptoms of drug reaction.
Nephritis – inflammation of kidneys result in fever, blood in urine, and confusion as symptoms.
Penicillin allergy is caused when the immune system over reacts to the antibiotic drug.
On first exposure, the immune system triggers the production of antibodies against this drug. On further exposure, these antibodies activate chemicals that cause the typical signs and symptoms of drug allergy. This happens in people who are sensitive to the drug.
Penicillin belongs to the class of drugs called beta lactams. Cephalosporins are other group of beta lactams associated with allergic reactions.
People with penicillin allergy may be associated with allergy to other penicillin or cephalosporins.
4 Making a Diagnosis
A thorough exam and appropriate diagnostic tests are essential for an accurate diagnosis of penicillin allergy.
Physical examination and the timing of symptoms provide valuable information regarding penicillin allergy.
Skin test and challenge test are also used to confirm the diagnosis. In a skin test, a small amount of the drug is administered to the skin with the help of a probe, or through an injection. Presence of itchy, bumps on the skin at the test site indicates drug allergy.
In graded challenge test few doses of the suspected drug is given by gradually increasing the dose. If no reactions are seen even after reaching the therapeutic dose, the person may not have an allergy to the drug.
The test is conducted for other drugs with similar chemical properties to rule out chances of other drug allergies.
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