One very exciting piece of information coming from this pregnancy, besides the obvious, is that I have been de-labelled penicillin allergic. When I was a kid I had an allergic reaction to penicillin so for the rest of my life I have had to write the allergy on forms, during school I wore a bracelet with the statement on it, and I’ve always been cautious to mention it at any kind of medical appointment.
When I registered with my midwife I went through the usual medical background stuff so said about my penicillin allergy. She then explained to me that in many cases where a child reacts to penicillin, they do not actually end up with a life long allergy, and in BC they are keen for pregnant women to attend the de-labelling clinic to confirm whether the allergy is still standing. Apparently only 10% of people who had reactions as kids still have reactions as adults, and during labour and delivery, penicillin is common in many of the drugs given to women, so they like to remove the allergy note if they can.
I thought this sounded excellent – if I can start saying I have no allergies that would be great! So I was booked in to attend the de-labelling clinic in my third trimester. Closer to the time, I was told it would be a three hour appointment, so to take snacks and a book or something to do. I had no idea what to expect, but a call from the Dr a couple days before confirmed that I’d likely receive a scratch test on my arm and then be monitored for a couple hours to check for any reaction.
Having been to the GD clinic a few times now, the hospital is feeling quite familiar to me, I turned up for the Penicillin De-Labelling Clinic as advised and there was four other women on the ward already. After a few minutes another lady arrived and sat on the final bed next to me, and the Nurse began her welcome spiel. She introduced herself and the other nurses and staff around the room, and explained that we’d each have our vitals monitored to begin with, then be administered penicillin, then we had to set timers for 15 minutes and then at one hour for our vitals to be monitored again. At the end, if we had no reaction, we’d be released and de-labelled. If we did have a reaction, we would be in the right place to handle it. They’ve been running the clinic for two years now, and had 196 patients to that day, and only one had left still with the penicillin allergy diagnosis.
The hive of nurses set to work and took our temperatures and our blood pressure and then administered each of us our penicillin – I was low risk for a reaction so was actually only given an amoxicillin tablet to take. I set my timer and got my book out ready to start some work for my pending assignment. A few minutes later, the lead Nurse came in with a plate of cookies and pastries announcing that today one of us would be the 200th woman to go through the clinic so they wanted to celebrate with us. I declined the treat on the grounds of my GD. 😦
Throughout the hour after taking the tablet different Nurses came and asked me questions – fall risks, general medical info etc, and took my blood pressure at the designated times. Towards the end of the hour I was starting to imagine itching but avoided scratching my leg or arm to see if any kind of rash appeared. I think it was in my head because nothing came up.
The final step was having the Administrator come round who asked us two simple very similar questions: How would we feel about taking penicillin in future? I answered reasonably confident. I felt fine after the amoxicillin and am sure that it wouldn’t be an issue in future, but having spent a lifetime answering that I was allergic, I think there will always be a slight hesitation in actually taking any form of it. I figure if I’m in a hospital though, where better to have an allergic reaction?!
So there we have it – I am no longer allergic to penicillin!
On a side note, I was told not to take any antihistamines for five days prior to the appointment so as to not mess with the reactions. My anti-nausea medication is an antihistamine and vitamin so I called the hospital about a week before the clinic, but didn’t hear back from them til it was only two days til the appointment (my fault for calling on a weekend then missing a call back). For two days I stopped taking my meds and the nausea and sickness came straight back! I vomited twice and felt nauseas all day for three days until I was given the all clear to take the meds again. This also showed how effective this medication is and how grateful for it I am.
(PS ever since writing about being itchy, I have had really itchy arms and hands… the mind is weird.)