We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
The Rational Clinical Examination |

Is This Patient Allergic to Penicillin?  An Evidence-Based Analysis of the Likelihood of Penicillin Allergy

Alan R. Salkind, MD; Paul G. Cuddy, PharmD; John W. Foxworth, PharmD
JAMA. 2001;285(19):2498-2505. doi:10.1001/jama.285.19.2498.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Context Clinicians frequently withhold antibiotics that contain penicillin based on patients' self-reported clinical history of an adverse reaction to penicillin and the clinicians' own misunderstandings about the characteristics of a true penicillin allergy.

Objectives To determine the likelihood of true penicillin allergy with consideration of clinical history and to evaluate the diagnostic value added by appropriate skin testing.

Data Sources MEDLINE was searched for relevant English-language articles dated 1966 to October 2000. Bibliographies were searched to identify additional articles.

Study Selection We included original studies describing the precision of skin testing in diagnosis of penicillin allergy. We excluded studies that did not use both minor and major determinants, provide an explicit definition of penicillin allergy, or list the specific criteria necessary for a positive skin test result. Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria.

Data Extraction Three authors independently reviewed and abstracted data from all articles and reached consensus about any discrepancies.

Data Synthesis Patients' self-reported history has low accuracy for diagnosis of true penicillin allergy. By evaluating studies comparing clinical history to the skin test for penicillin allergy among patients with and without a positive history for penicillin allergy, positive and negative likelihood ratios were calculated. History of penicillin allergy had a positive likelihood ratio of 1.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5-2.5), while absence of history of penicillin allergy had a negative likelihood ratio of 0.5 (95% CI, 0.4-0.6).

Conclusions Only 10% to 20% of patients reporting a history of penicillin allergy are truly allergic when assessed by skin testing. Taking a detailed history of a patient's reaction to penicillin may allow clinicians to exclude true penicillin allergy, allowing these patients to receive penicillin. Patients with a concerning history of type I penicillin allergy who have a compelling need for a drug containing penicillin should undergo skin testing. Virtually all patients with a negative skin test result can take penicillin without serious sequelae.

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

123 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

See Also...
Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Penicillin Allergy

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Original Article: Is This Patient Allergic to Penicillin?