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It’s a common enough question in any doctor’s office: “Do you have any drug allergies? Penicillin maybe?” Up to 15 percent of patients in the US will say they’re allergic to penicillin.

That’s tens of millions of people.

But studies have shown that when those patients are challenged with tests, more than 95 percent turn out to be dead wrong.
It might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Penicillin and its close relatives are often first-line drugs. When they’re skipped due to a phantom allergy, doctors land on harder drugs—antibiotics that can be less effective, have more side effects, and spur resistant infections.
Indeed, some studies have found that people with penicillin allergies have higher odds of carrying drug-resistant bugs.
Researchers and some physicians have known about this problem for years.

But with the intensifying plague of drug-resistant infections and failing antibiotic therapies, more doctors are focusing on it and trying to correct it.
In a study set to be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers found that simple skin tests or guidelines can safely boost penicillin and related prescriptions up to six-fold for patients initially labeled allergic.
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