Management of patients with a history of allergy to beta-lactam antibiotics

Am J Med. 2008 Jul;121(7):572-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2007.12.005.


Patients with a history of penicillin allergy pose a treatment dilemma. Unnecessary avoidance of this relatively nontoxic class of drugs exposes the patient to potentially more toxic drugs, increases health care costs, and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance. Yet for those who truly have allergy or other serious adverse reactions to beta-lactams, the use of alternate drugs is a must. This article reviews current management strategies to determine which patients are good candidates for reintroduction of beta-lactams and which patients should continue avoidance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Desensitization, Immunologic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Penicillins / adverse effects
  • Penicillins / chemistry
  • Penicillins / immunology
  • Skin Tests
  • beta-Lactams*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins
  • beta-Lactams