I was lucky enough to get my Penicillin allergy testing done at the Royal Brompton Hospital. People are afraid to travel and feeling understandably scared right now so I got a short notice cancellation. I was nervous for sure, but I hope my experience reassures people about the efforts being put in to keep patients safe.
My Drug Allergies
All my life I’ve been told I had a Penicillin allergy, for many years’ it wasn’t a big deal. But in the last 10 years (or so…) my allergies and asthma have become much worse. This means I’ve been on prednisone repeatedly for body wide rashes and swelling, and I now seem to get an annual chest infection.
Sadly, I’ve also started to have issues with Penicillin alternatives – with a bad rash when I last had Clarithromycin. Erythromycin results is such an unpleasant gastric reaction that I can’t tolerate it.
I was beginning to get worried as I was afraid I’d continue to become allergic to the Penicillin alternatives so suddenly my Penicillin allergy was a concern. After a brief conversation with my GP we agreed to get me an allergy test for Penicillin – hoping I’d outgrown it at some point.
The Next Steps
First step was a video conference call with the allergist that was very comprehensive. Naturally, I was told appointments would be delayed, so I’ve been waiting some months for an appointment letter. But instead of a letter I got a phone call on Wednesday asking if I could come in Friday at 9am. I jumped at the chance.
And then regretted it.
I realised I haven’t been on public transport for months, I’ve been working from home and the extent of my travel has been a ten minute walk to Sainsbury’s. It was really odd, I felt very anxious and started to get very cold feet. But after confessing my nerves to my husband we came up with a plan. Julian would drive me to The Brompton Hospital, and I’d walk home (a good solid hour, but it was my daily exercise).
I’m use to hospitals being busy places, so it was very odd to see an empty hospital reception -staff everywhere, but no patients. After having my temperature taken, I was escorted upstairs. Once I was there, multiple staff members thanked me for showing up. There was hand sanitiser everywhere, staff in full PPE – shields, masks, gloves and aprons. But I was still stressed about being there.
The first task was to take my vitals – heart rate and blood pressure were (ahem) rather high suggesting that I’d not conquered those nerves. So I needed to calm down, close my eyes and in my mind go to my happy place relaxing by a lake (I’m Canadian so lakes are a big deal). The second set of vitals was okay so we were ready to go.
Then came the Covid test. A nasal swab no less. I’m told they hadn’t had a single case of a-symptomatic Covid yet. If the test came back positive I’d know the next day, thankfully, and not unsurprisingly, I’ve heard nothing.
I was put in a room, with my own bathroom, a TV, reclining chair and iced water. I had my book, I pad and a flask of Camomile tea so I was ready for a long morning of testing.
Drug testing happens in three phases:
Traditional Skin Prick test. A little bit of the substance is place on the arm, and a small prick made in the skin. If a welt appears then there’s an allergy.
If the skin prick test is okay, then they move onto Intra-dermal skin tests. To you and me – it’s a small injection under the skin.
Again if there’s no reaction, then they will give a small dose of the meds. Watch for 15 minutes, and give an increased dose. In all there will be 4 doses given with the final dose being a full dose. Followed by an hours’ observation.
At every point I was well looked after. Staff were within call, I had a buzzer, and they were ready for any bad reactions.
It wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in a morning, but considering how dull things have been with lockdown it was one of my most exciting mornings in a long time…especially as the result was the one I was hoping for. No Penicillin allergy!
I can only urge people to go to their hospital appointments, wear your mask, gloves and have hand sanitiser with you. Everyone will distance as much as possible to be safe. If we don’t go to our appointments now, the backlog is going to be horrendous. Which reminds me…need to catch up with the team at Evelina about Molly’s immunology therapy starting (again) this spring!