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Allergy Asthma Proc. 2014 Nov-Dec;35(6):489-94. doi: 10.2500/aap.2014.35.3791.

Prevalence and characteristics of reported penicillin allergy in an urban outpatient adult population.

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Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.


Penicillin allergy remains the most common drug allergy, with a reported prevalence of 10% in the United States. Epidemiology of penicillin allergy in outpatient populations is relatively scarce. This study sought to determine the prevalence and characteristics of reported penicillin allergy in an urban outpatient population and to identify trends in clinical evaluation and management from a tertiary center serving a large inner-city population. A retrospective review of electronic medical records was performed of adult patients seen in the Internal Medicine Associates Clinic of Mount Sinai Hospital between January 31, 2012, and July 31, 2012. Medical records were selected based on the documentation of penicillin in patient's allergy section. Of the 11,761 patients seen in the clinic, 1348 patients (11.5%) reported a history of penicillin allergy. The most common allergic reactions were rash (37%), unknown/undocumented (20.2%), hives (18.9%), swelling/angioedema (11.8%), and anaphylaxis (6.8%). There was an increased prevalence of penicillin allergy in female patients compared with male patients (odds ratio [OR] = 1.82; 95% CI = 1.60, 2.08; p < 0.0001), and there were significantly fewer Asians with penicillin allergy compared with Caucasians (OR = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.32, 0.83; p = 0.007). However, only 78 (6%) of the patients reporting penicillin allergy had a referral to an allergy specialist. Overall, improved referral to an allergist will help to identify patients who have penicillin allergy requiring avoidance.

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