Patient Characteristics and Concerns about Drug Allergy: A Report from the United States Drug Allergy Registry

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2020 Oct;8(9):2958-2967. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2020.08.018. Epub 2020 Aug 24.


Background: Drug allergy is frequently reported, but uncommonly confirmed with diagnostic testing. Although drug allergy assessments can improve clinical care, patient concerns may impact the optimal diagnostic approach and/or the clinical effectiveness of diagnostic testing.

Objective: To assess drug allergy patient concerns.

Methods: Using data from a multisite, prospective longitudinal cohort study, the United States Drug Allergy Registry (January 16, 2019, to January 24, 2020), we determined patient self-reported characteristics and qualitatively coded free-text patient concerns about their drug allergy/allergies. We assessed associations between patient characteristics and drug allergy concerns using multinomial logistic regression models.

Results: Of 592 patients (mean age, 49 [standard deviation, 17] years, 74% female, 88% white), the most commonly reported drug allergies were penicillins (78%), cephalosporins (12%), and sulfonamides (12%) with common reactions of rash (62%), hives (54%), itching (48%), flushing or facial redness (28%), and swelling or angioedema (24%). Patient concerns, coded from free text, were optimal medication use (41%), no concern (17%), allergic reaction (14%), diagnosis (12%), and severe allergic reaction (12%). Using multinomial regression, the presence of drug allergy concerns increased with greater age, higher number of reported drug reactions, more antibiotic use, and certain reaction symptoms, most notably mouth or palate itching. Female sex was associated with increased severe allergic reaction concern. Poorer general and mental health was associated with increased allergic reaction concern.

Conclusion: Patients with drug allergy were concerned about their options for medical treatment, having an allergic reaction, and receiving clarity about their diagnosis. Capturing and addressing patient concerns may improve the approach to patients with drug allergy and/or the effectiveness of drug allergy testing.

Keywords: Antibiotic; Cephalosporin; Drug challenge; Hypersensitivity; Immunologic; Multiple drug hypersensitivity; Multiple drug intolerance; Penicillin; Quality of life; Skin test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Drug Hypersensitivity* / drug therapy
  • Drug Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Penicillins / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins