(RNN) – About 10 percent of Americans think they have a penicillin allergy, but just a fraction of them really do, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics says.
Many children are automatically labeled as being allergic to the antibiotic if they develop a mild rash after taking the drug, but that’s not considered a true allergy.
"Anybody who has a penicillin allergy should at least talk to their physician about getting tested for that allergy," the study's lead author Dr. David Vyles told ABC News. "It’s a two-hour process and could make a big difference in their life."
With formal allergy testing, doctors learned that only one in 10 of those labeled with a penicillin allergy had one. That means only about 1 percent of us do.
Because of the misdiagnosis, many people are prescribed more expensive and less effective drugs to treat common infections.
The study followed up with 100 children who were initially diagnosed with the allergy based on a rash, but later cleared after testing.
None of the children who took penicillin-derivative prescriptions suffered a serious allergic reaction. One child developed a rash.
"You're getting 10 percent of [Americans] reporting that they're allergic, and that's causing huge problems down the line," Vyles said. "We thought about how we could make a difference in young kids that could be carried through to adulthood. And that was de-labeling them."
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