Many Who Think They Are ‪Allergic‬ To ‪Penicillin‬ May Safely Take It

By Julienne Roman,

Researchers found that most people who are told that they are allergic to penicillin were mistakenly diagnosed as such based on initial reactions instead of a confirmatory test.

This mistaken perception led many to opt for more dangerous antibiotics and other treatments for their infections. Researchers pointed out that the patients who were thought to be penicillin-allergic had to take other antibiotics that put them at greater risk for acquiring complications such as colitis and the development of more antibiotic-resistant strains.

Study authors therefore stress the need to specifically test for penicillin allergy on suspected patients.

“Anyone who has been told they are penicillin allergic, but who hasn’t been tested by an allergist, should be tested,”said Dr. David Khan from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

He added that if patients are determined to be allergic, doctors will be able to determine which treatment options are most suited with the full confidence that it is the best course of action for the patient. But if the tests turned negative, then the patient will be able to take a drug that is just as effective as most antibiotics while being safer and more cost-effective.

Researchers studied data from patients who were reportedly allergic to penicillin but when tested were actually found to be negative. The team later found that the patients could be treated safely with the mentioned antibiotic even through intravenous injection.

“There is often thought to be a higher risk in patients who get intravenous penicillin, but we did not find this to be the case,” Khan added.

The misconception often stems from wrongly interpreting symptoms that manifest after taking the drug as signs of an allergic reaction. This mistake happens about 90 percent of the time among patients.

Penicillin side effects that include nausea and vomiting, mild diarrhea or headache commonly occur while taking the drug but do not herald an allergic reaction or are considered dangerous enough to halt continued taking of the drug.

Ever since its discovery, penicillin still remains a popular antibiotic because of its effectiveness and relatively low level of toxicity on healthy human cells. It comes in several different, non-interchangeable forms, and each one is often used to treat different infections.

However, there are people who are allergic to the drug, and people who report developing a rash, itching or difficulty of breathing while using the drug are advised to report these findings to a physician for a confirmatory test.

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Allergy Season: Experts Predict Severe Allergy Symptoms, But A Shorter Season

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There was no short supply of sniffles, sneezing, or stranger side-eye on the subway this winter (sorry about that) — and allergy season may be a similar scene. Experts predict the 2015 season will be more severe than years past.

Dr. John Basso, chief of allergy and immunology at Nyack Hospital in New York, told USA Today “the prolonged moisture in some regions this winter may have laid the groundwork for a bad season.” Basso explained a warm, dry spring following a wet winter is a recipe for high pollen counts. But if we were to have a wet spring, pollen might not be such a problem.

Pollen levels over the past few years have been unusually elevated, the overall season starting earlier and lasting longer. This year, Dr. Tanya Laidlaw, director of Translational Research in Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Tech Times the classic oak, birch, and maple trees will be late to pollinate — so there’s a chance seasonal allergies will be cut short by at least a few days.

Still, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for experts to predict what exactly is in store for allergy sufferers. Global warming is considered to be partly responsible for the unpredictable shift, the increased carbon dioxide and climate change stimulating pollen growth. This then makes pollen more prevalent and potent.

This is why experts have started recommending sufferers take any medication and otherwise precaution before the onset of spring allergies. Basically, experts find sufferers are better off when they plan a preemptive strike against miserable symptoms.

“It’s a really good idea to start early, because if you have your armamentarium on board protecting you, the medication will be a lot more effective and you’ll feel better,” Dr. Laura Mechanic, chief of allergy at White Plains Hospital, told USA Today. “A lot of people who wait end up suffering longer and on even more medication for a longer period of time.”

If your allergies aren’t bad enough to warrant a prescription, there are other ways to reduce symptoms. Eating healthy foods can reduce symptoms; cleaning air conditioning and furnace filters every three months can minimize pollen and mold in the air; and wearing sunglasses when outside keeps irritants away, reducing itchiness and redness.

Bonus: Several apps are available for smartphones now to help sufferers better manage and even predict the severity of their symptoms. For example, ZYRTEC® AllergyCast delivers a GPS-based allergy forecast for today and tomorrow, as well as the day’s top allergens based on a person’s location. Check out four other options here.

Article reprinted from Medical Daily

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How to know whether your cough is serious


I saw 17 patients in my primary care practice yesterday. Six of them were coughing.

One of the most basic parts of my job is sorting out who’s a little sick from who’s very sick, or in danger of getting very sick. How do I do that when so many people have the same symptom? And, as a patient, how do you know when your own cough is worth a trip to the doctor (especially when it’s cold, you feel rotten, and the waiting room is likely to be full of … coughing people)?

First, what is a cough? One way to think of it is as a version of speaking or singing: air is being expelled through the throat in such a way that a noise comes out. In coughing, however, the expulsion of air is caused by some irritant, is reflexive and involuntary (though you can fake a cough, usually unconvincingly) and occurs against closed vocal cords, producing a distinctive sound. Some coughing sounds–the “bark” of croup (listen here) and the “whoop” of whooping cough (listen here)–are especially distinctive.

Dozens of conditions can cause a cough. The most common ones I see in adults are:

viral upper respiratory infections
influenza (“the flu”)
bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis
asthma
allergies
congestive heart failure
gastroesophageal reflux (“GERD”)
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”)
smoking
lung cancer
post nasal drip
medication side effects–especially from the blood pressure medications known as ACE inhibitors (lisinopril, accupril, monopril, etc.).

Some of the clues I use to sort through these are the quality of the cough (wet or dry, throaty or deep, etc.); timing (acute vs. chronic); accompanying symptoms (wheezing, fever, etc.); and characteristics of the patient (age, medical history, exposure to smoke, medications, or sick contacts, allergens, etc.)

Someone taking lisinopril who feels well other than a tickly feeling in their throat that’s been making them cough for weeks is easy to diagnose, as is someone who’s got a high fever, body aches, chills, and a kid at home with the flu, or someone who coughs every time they eat a heavy meal and then lies down in bed and gets heartburn (the acid irritates the throat).

Things get tricky when the variables scramble and combine: a smoker with GERD who takes lisinopril and has a sick kid at home, for example. When that happens–and it often does–you work your way through the list of possible diagnoses (“the differential”) and eliminate them one by one, starting with the most serious and the most likely the way a detective considers crime suspects. The physical exam, blood tests, a sputum sample, a chest X-ray, and a consultation with a specialist may all be helpful in sorting through the list. Sometimes, a “therapeutic trial” is the key to the diagnosis: if changing the blood pressure medication, treating the GERD, or having the patient avoid cats cures the cough, you have your answer.

This time of year, the vast majority of coughs I see are due to upper respiratory viral infections. Each of the six coughing patients I saw yesterday had one, I determined. I advised them to rest, drink soothing liquids, use over the counter cough medications as needed, cough into their elbows and stay out of work or school if they have fevers or until they felt better (yes, a subjective call).

There are symptoms that may signal a cough that may require more treatment and evaluation than this. These include:

fever >101
shortness of breath
wheezing
coughing up blood
chest pain
cough that lasts more than several days
exposure to flu, whooping cough, or other infectious diseases

Even these symptoms don’t necessarily mean the cough is serious. I’m seeing plenty of people this year with fevers and coughs lasting two and even three weeks or more who still turn out to have simple viral infections. But these are symptoms that are worth a call or even a trip to your doctor’s office.

Please don’t be offended when we hand you a mask at the door.

Suzanne Koven is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In Practice atBoston.com, where this article originally appeared. She is the author of Say Hello To A Better Body: Weight Loss and Fitness For Women Over 50.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Allegra® antihistamine for allergy is now available without a prescription

The FDA approved over-the-counter sale of Allegra® (fexofenadine).
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This second generation antihistamine is projected to be available in pharmacies on March 4th, 2011 according to Sanofi-aventis, the manufacturer of Allegra®.
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The following Allegra® products will be available for over-the-counter sale:
  • Allegra® 24-hour and 12-hour tablets for adults and children 12 and older
  • Children’s Allegra® 12-hour tablets for children ages 6 years and older
  • Allegra® Liquid for children ages 2 years and older
  • Children’s Allegra® 12-hour ODT for children ages 6 years and older
  • Allegra-D® 24-hour and 12-hour allergy and congestion extended release tablets for adults and children 12 years and older
Currently, there are two other second generation antihistamines available over-the-counter, loratadine and cetirazine.
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When compared to the first generation antihistamines, specifically diphenhydramine, the current over-the-counter second generation antihistamines have minimal sedative and anticholinergic side effects.  This holds true for Allegra® as well.