Polyethylene Glycol-Induced Systemic Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis)

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Feb;9(2):670-675. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2020.09.029. Epub 2020 Oct 1.


Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) or macrogols are hydrophilic polymers found in everyday products such as foods, cosmetics, and medications. We present 5 cases of confirmed PEG allergy, which to our knowledge is the largest case series to date. Four of the 5 cases developed anaphylaxis to medications containing PEGs, with 1 near-fatal case resulting in cardiac arrest. Skin tests were undertaken to the index medications and to PEGs of different molecular weights. Three were confirmed with positive skin prick test result to PEG, 1 confirmed with a positive intradermal test result, and 1 confirmed after positive oral challenge. Two patients developed anaphylaxis following intradermal test to PEG and 1 a systemic allergic reaction (without hypotension or respiratory distress) following PEG skin prick tests. Before diagnosis, all 5 patients were mislabeled as allergic to multiple medications and their clinical management had become increasingly challenging. An algorithm is proposed to safely investigate suspected PEG allergy, with guidance on PEG molecular weights and skin test dilutions to minimize the risk of systemic allergic reaction. Investigation carries considerable risk without knowledge and informed planning so should only be conducted in a specialist drug allergy center.

Keywords: Drug allergy; PEG allergy; Skin test to PEG and anaphylaxis.

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis* / diagnosis
  • Drug Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Intradermal Tests
  • Polyethylene Glycols / adverse effects
  • Skin Tests


  • Polyethylene Glycols