Health outcomes of penicillin allergy testing in children: a systematic review

Mo Kwok, Katie L Heard, Anthony May, Rachel Pilgrim, Jonathan Sandoe, Sarah Tansley, Jennifer Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Penicillin allergy labels are commonly acquired in childhood and lead to avoidance of first-line penicillin antibiotics. Understanding the health outcomes of penicillin allergy testing (PAT) can strengthen its place in antimicrobial stewardship efforts.

OBJECTIVES: To identify and summarize the health outcomes of PAT in children.

METHODS: Embase, MEDLINE, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, SCOPUS and CINAHL were searched from inception to 11 Oct 2021 (Embase and MEDLINE updated April 2022). Studies that utilized in vivo PAT in children (≤18 years old) and reported outcomes relevant to the study objectives were included.

RESULTS: Thirty-seven studies were included in the review, with a total of 8411 participants. The most commonly reported outcomes were delabelling, subsequent penicillin courses, and tolerability to penicillin courses. Ten studies had patient-reported tolerability to subsequent penicillin use, with a median 93.6% (IQR 90.3%-97.8%) of children tolerating a subsequent course of penicillins. In eight studies, a median 97.3% (IQR 96.4%-99.0%) of children were reported as 'delabelled' after a negative PAT without further definition. Three separate studies verified delabelling by checking electronic or primary care medical records, where 48.0%-68.3% children were delabelled. No studies reported on outcomes relating to disease burden such as antibiotic resistance, mortality, infection rates or cure rates.

CONCLUSIONS: Safety and efficacy of PAT and subsequent penicillin use was the focus of existing literature. Further research is required to determine the long-term impact of delabelling penicillin allergies on disease burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-922
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number4
Early online date6 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Health Education England Research Internship for Pharmacists (Wessex Region). The funder was not involved in the development of the protocol and the manuscript.

Tables S1 to S3 are available as Supplementary data at JAC Online.


  • Humans
  • Child
  • Adolescent
  • Penicillins/adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents/adverse effects
  • Drug Hypersensitivity/diagnosis
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Hypersensitivity/drug therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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