My Son’s Antibiotic Allergy Challenge

antibiotic allergyMy middle son Joseph is THAT KID. You know the one. Broke his arm at 15 months from climbing out of the crib, had RSV as a baby that led to his asthma today, gets stung by a wasp at baseball tryouts and always has some sort of new rash, bruise or scrape. He gets strep multiple times a year, which means antibiotics a lot. And since he is that kid, it obviously couldn’t be easy. Joseph is allergic to two different classes of antibiotics – Penicillin and Cephalosporin, which makes treating him for bacterial infections particularly difficult.

We figured out he was allergic to amoxicillin when he was a toddler after an ear infection. He developed hives, but the pediatrician wasn’t sure if it was a true allergy or just a virus-induced rash. Our doctor recommended getting tested at the Children’s Mercy Allergy Clinic. We met with a doctor who told us that true amoxicillin allergies were rare, and this should be a fairly easy process to get the all clear to take Amoxicillin once again. Joseph was now age 4, and I was 37 weeks pregnant with my daughter.

To say, I was unaware of how the day would go was an understatement. Still to this day, I don’t know how I didn’t go into labor right then and there.

The nurse started off the oral challenge with a tiny dose of amoxicillin for Joseph to drink. They told me they would be back in 15 minutes to check in on him. Within 5 minutes, Joseph started getting hives on the back part of his neck. I quickly knocked on the window to get the nurse’s attention. After seeing the hives, she seemed concerned. She returned with a doctor and another nurse.

Within minutes, Joseph was covered in the hives and had starting panicking. They tried to give him Benadryl, but he wouldn’t open his mouth. I stood there completely in shock and watched as the medical staff stabilized his leg so that epinephrine could be safely administered.

It all happened in a matter of seconds, but I swear time stood still. Joseph was crying and screaming. I felt grateful that we were in a facility that was able to act fast. I shuddered thinking what would have happened if we had skipped the challenge and tried amoxicillin at home on our own.

They monitored Joseph for several hours and explained to me that this type of reaction to an oral challenge is extremely rare. He may grow out of it as he gets older, but that he would need to avoid all medicine containing penicillin.

About six months later, Joseph had a strep infection and was treated with antibiotics. The pediatrician prescribed him Cefdinir and after one dose, I noticed the hives again. His pediatrician gave him a double dose of Benadryl and advised me to stay away from all cephalosporins, a cousin to amoxicillin. An allergy is pretty rare, but that’s my Joseph.

Now we have to avoid two classes of antibiotics, which makes it difficult to treat Joseph for his recurrent ear and strep infections. They typically give him Clindamycin, which tastes awful. We’ve tried several times to teach him how to swallow pills with no luck, so I would break them open and sprinkle on ice cream. After a few frustrating times, I started asking the pediatrician about other options. Now that Joseph was 9, they suggested we do a Cephalosporin challenge to see if we would have to avoid all medicine in that class or just a few.

We met with the Children’s Mercy Allergy Clinic again and decided to try another oral challenge. In November 2020, we had an appointment in the same room as our failed challenge years ago. We were nervous but the nursing staff at Children’s Mercy was prepared for us. They knew our history (in fact the nurse remembered us from that day five years ago) and they conducted a much slower challenge. We were pleasantly surprised when Joseph stayed hive-free. This meant he could have a whole new class of antibiotics!

The doctor was amazing, so patient with all of my questions and explained how children can grow out of allergies as they get older. She suggested we try another Penicillin challenge. I was very hesitant to repeat this one – and Joseph was not happy to do another test, but she convinced me it would be worth it.

The following month, we came back. She assured us we would take the test very slow and monitor him for any signs of an allergic reaction. We started with the skin testing again with no reactions and moved on to the oral portion. After the first dose, nothing happened. After the second dose, nothing happened. The doctor was right, Joseph had outgrown this allergy, too! This opens up a whole new world for him when he needs antibiotics.

I’m so thankful to Children’s Mercy for their patience, support and expertise on helping us through this journey. They took care of us when we needed it, and I’m happy to say Joseph is allergy free now!

This post is sponsored by CHildren’s Mercy.

Laura is wife to Marty, and mom to Michael (11), Joseph (9) and Anna (5). She spends most of her days juggling working from home, shuffling kids to activities and can usually be found cheering on the boys from the baseball stands. She is born and raised in Kansas City, graduated from KU (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) and has spent most of her career in advertising sales. She loves big Italian family dinners, trying out new restaurants in Kansas City on a rare date night and can never say no to an impromptu dance party with her kids.