Allergy to betalactam antibiotics in children: a prospective follow-up study in retreated children after negative responses in skin and challenge tests

Allergy. 2007 Jan;62(1):42-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2006.01246.x.


Background: Up to 10% of the patients in whom suspected betalactam hypersensitivity (HS) has been excluded by skin and challenge tests report suspected allergic reactions during subsequent treatments with the same or very similar betalactams. It has been suggested that the reactions may result from a resensitization induced by the challenge performed at the time of the allergological work-up. However, most patients did not undergo a second allergological work-up, to determine if the reactions resulted from betalactam HS or not.

Objectives: We aimed to determine if children diagnosed nonallergic to betalactams have tolerated subsequent treatments with the initially suspected and/or other betalactams, and, in case of a reaction, if the reaction resulted from betalactam HS.

Methods: We sent a questionnaire concerning the clinical history of their children to the parents of 256 children previously diagnosed nonallergic to betalactams. A second allergological work-up was performed in the children reporting suspected allergic reactions during subsequent treatments with the same and/or other betalactams. Skin tests were performed with the soluble form of the suspected (or very similar) betalactams and other betalactams from the same and other classes. Skin test responses were assessed at 15-20 min (immediate), 6-8 h (semi-late) and 48-72 h (late). Oral challenge (OC) was performed in children with negative skin tests, either at the hospital (immediate and accelerated reactions), or at home (delayed reactions).

Results: A response was obtained from 141 children (55.3%). Forty-eight (34%) of those children had not been treated with the betalactams for whom a diagnosis of allergy had been ruled out previously. Seven (7.5%) of the 93 children who had been treated again reported suspected allergic reactions. Skin tests and OC were performed in six of those children, and gave negative results in five children. In one child previously diagnosed nonallergic to amoxicillin associated with clavulanic acid, we diagnosed a delayed HS to clavulanic acid and a serum sickness-like disease to cefaclor. Thus, the frequency of reactions resulting from betalactam HS in children with negative skin and challenge tests is very low, and does not exceed 2.1% (2/93) if we consider that the child which refused a second allergological work-up is really allergic to betalactams.

Conclusion: Our results in a very large number of children show that reactions presumed to result from betalactam HS are rare in children in whom the diagnosis of betalactam allergy has been ruled out previously. Moreover, they suggest that, as shown for the initial reactions, most of the reactions during subsequent treatments are rather a consequence of the infectious diseases for whom betalactams have been prescribed than a result of betalactam HS. Finally, they suggest that the risk of resensitization by OC is very low, and do not support the notion that skin testing should be repeated in children diagnosed nonallergic to betalactams.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Retreatment
  • Skin Tests
  • beta-Lactams / administration & dosage*
  • beta-Lactams / adverse effects*
  • beta-Lactams / immunology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams