What is penicillin and why is it important?

Penicillin is one of the first antibiotic drugs discovered. It belongs to an important group of antibiotics called beta (ß)-lactam antibiotics. This family of antibiotics are very effective at dealing with common bacterial infections. Penicillin is relatively inexpensive and is widely used to treat skin, ear, sinus and upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. bronchitis or laryngitis).

Compared to other antibiotics, penicillin can be more effective, less likely to result in superbug bacteria (such as MRSA and VRE), and has a lower risk of causing C. difficile infection (a sometimes severe and difficult to treat cause of diarrhea).

Do you have a penicillin allergy?

While you may have experienced certain reactions after taking penicillin in the past, you might not have a true allergy. Rather, these reactions could be adverse effects related to penicillin, and 80% of these adverse effects disappear over time. This means that most people who had penicillin issues in the past can take penicillin safely later in life.

What you can do:

Before asking to be prescribed a different antibiotic, talk to your doctor! They will be able to evaluate your allergy, or refer you to an allergist.

Resources

Allergic to Penicillin? Brochure

Download the brochure to learn about penicillin allergy, and how to be Antibiotic Wise.

Allergic to Penicillin? Poster

Download and use the poster to raise awareness about penicillin allergy.

Penicillin Allergy Fact Sheet

Did you know that half of all penicillin allergies go away within 5 years? Learn more about why penicillin may still be the right choice even if you have been told you have an allergy.

BC Women’s Penicillin Allergy Challenge Test

Fact sheet for a new initiative from the BC Women’s Hospital testing penicillin allergies of pregnant women.

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