The drug class most frequently associated with allergic reactions are the penicillins. Yet penicillins have a vital role in being important treatment options for many common and uncommon infections.

Junior doctors undertake the majority of hospital-based prescribing. Evidence suggests foundation doctors make the most prescribing-based errors.

A questionnaire was designed to ascertain whether junior doctors displayed an adequate level of knowledge regarding individual and antibiotic class identification, use of trade names, beta lactam cross sensitivity and symptoms of type I and IV hypersensitivity reactions.

Three quarters of respondents stated they had received allergy/non-allergic drug reaction teaching as an undergraduate but only just over a half had as a postgraduate. The Junior doctor responded group demonstrated adequate knowledge of correct identification of individual penicillins and non-penicillins and symptoms of a type I hypersensitivity reaction. There was inadequate knowledge of cephalosporin and carbapenem prescribing in the context of penicillin-associated anaphylaxis and of type IV hypersensitivity reaction symptoms. More core and higher specialty trainees correctly chose to prescribe in generic name form than foundation doctors.

This survey suggests that there may be key elements of knowledge required to safely prescribe antibiotics in the context of penicillin that, overall, as a group, junior doctors may lack adequate knowledge of, with this inadequacy being most pronounced in foundation doctors.

This suggests that junior doctors, and foundation trainees in particular, may need more education and training early in their careers to help support safe prescribing in the context of penicillin allergies.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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