Allergy to antibiotics in children: an overestimated problem

Susanna Esposito, Luca Castellazzi, Claudia Tagliabue, Nicola Principi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Antibiotics are the most prescribed drugs for children, and a relevant number of prescriptions are associated with the emergence of adverse events. Allergic reactions are the most frequently reported adverse events, with an incidence of up to 10% of all prescriptions. However, literature analysis has shown that allergy to antibiotics is generally overdiagnosed in children because in most cases the diagnosis is based only on the clinical history without a full allergy work-up. Consequently, children are often improperly deprived of narrow-spectrum antibiotics because of a suspected allergy to these drugs. β-Lactams, mainly penicillins, are more frequently involved as a cause of allergy to antibiotics, although allergic problems are reported for most of the antibiotic classes. Accurate diagnosis is essential for a precise definition of determination of allergy to a given drug. Diagnosis has to be based on history, laboratory tests and, when possible, on in vitro and drug provocation tests. Unfortunately, the allergological work-up is well structured only for β-lactam antibiotics, whereas for non-β-lactams few studies are available, with very limited experience in children. The main aim of this paper is to discuss the real relevance of allergy to antibiotics in children in order to provide physicians with the knowledge needed to establish an appropriate diagnostic allergy work-up and to make better use of antibiotic therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-366
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Antimicrobial Agents
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Adverse event
  • Anti-infective therapy
  • Antibiotic
  • Antibiotic allergy
  • Non-β-lactams
  • β-Lactams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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