Antibiotic Skin Testing

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed medications to kill bacteria and stop it from spreading and to heal infections. These medications can be used to effectively treat bacterial illnesses such as strep throat, ear or sinus infections, skin infections, meningitis, and bladder infections, just to name a few. However, an antibiotic allergy can put patients at risk for severe side effects after taking antibiotics. As such, it’s critical to identify an antibiotic allergy as soon as possible. 

Antibiotic skin testing is a viable method for identifying antibiotic allergies. Here, we’ll cover the basics of this allergy testing strategy offered at Kratz Allergy & Asthma in Florida.

Antibiotic Allergies and Their Risks

Penicillin is one of the most frequently prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotic allergies often refer to a penicillin allergy, and about 10 percent of the patients in the U.S. report a penicillin allergy. However, the majority of these patients may not be truly allergic, or the allergy may disappear in time. 

Sulfa antibiotics are another common drug that may cause allergic reactions. About three percent of people who have a bad reaction to sulfa drugs are truly allergic. 

Antibiotic allergies can lead to severe reactions. A severe allergic reaction from antibiotics is anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis, your body goes into shock, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. You may experience difficulty breathing, rash, and even vomiting. This reaction must be treated with an epinephrine injection, and you’ll need to visit the ER. 

How Does Antibiotic Skin Testing Work?

Antibiotic skin testing may successfully identify antibiotic allergies to prevent future allergic reactions. This method works by administering a minute dose of an antibiotic such as penicillin to the skin using a small needle. If you’re allergic to the antibiotic, you’ll have a minor skin reaction in the form of an inflamed or itchy bump. 

A positive reaction to an antibiotic skin test denotes a high chance for the allergy. Your allergist may recommend further tests or treatment such as desensitization depending on your results. 

When to Get Antibiotic Skin Testing

Antibiotics skin testing is most commonly performed after an allergic reaction to a prescribed antibiotic. The reaction may or may not have been “immediate-type,” meaning that it began within an hour of taking the antibiotic. Signs of an immediate-type allergic reaction can vary widely, but common symptoms include:

  • Skin irritation, such as hives, flushing, inflammation, or itchiness
  • Eye irritation, such as inflammation, itching, or running
  • Congestion, runny nose, sneezing, or swelling of the mouth
  • Dizziness, weakness, fainting, or fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion or anxiety

If you aren’t tested for an antibiotic allergy after a related allergic reaction, you may risk another reaction in the future. As mentioned above, anaphylaxis can occur as a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics and can be life-threatening. 

Some individuals may be at a higher risk for an antibiotic allergy due to allergies to other drugs, a family history of drug allergies, or an allergic reaction of any kind. Speak to your allergist to determine your risk and decide if a skin test may be beneficial to you. 

At Kratz Allergy & Asthma in Florida, our expert staff can help you identify and manage an antibiotic allergy. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.