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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Modern Wars & Warfare > Military Medicine

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Military Medicine Discuss aspects of this specialist field not covered in other forums.

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  #1  
Old 17 Jan 08, 16:22
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Allergic To Penicillin?

I was wondering that when penicillin was first used and then began to be widely used for the armed forces during WW2 whether or not any soldiers had allergic reactions to it and if the doctors knew that was the problem at first. I know some people are so allergic to it that it can kill them(my father, sister and brother to name 3), so did the doctors at the time know of this? Or did that come after a few soldiers had died from reaction to it?
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  #2  
Old 10 Nov 08, 18:39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R. Evans View Post
I was wondering that when penicillin was first used and then began to be widely used for the armed forces during WW2 whether or not any soldiers had allergic reactions to it and if the doctors knew that was the problem at first. I know some people are so allergic to it that it can kill them(my father, sister and brother to name 3), so did the doctors at the time know of this? Or did that come after a few soldiers had died from reaction to it?
The odd thing about allergies: It's not the allergen (i.e. Penicillin) that typically kills people.

Most often it is your own-body's reaction that kills you.

( I say 'most' because we are always finding out new stuff in the medical world.)

Most people are exposed to the allergen -> develop the wrong anti-body -> be exposed to the allergen again -> and then the body's auto-immune response starts spitting out wrong anti-body to fight off that allergen. -> Only now, it's not working and your body starts to try and fight it off in different ways (dumping your blood-pressure/filling your lungs with secretions/etc).

There's a lot more technical stuff to it, but that's the basic breakdown of how a lot of allergies work. And why the first inoculation might not have been so bad for the typical WW II Joe whom had probably not had regular vaccinations like we do with almost all kids these days.

I think the people with the most data about this subject (and the least likely to give you the data) -> Pfizer

That war made them.

http://www.pfizer.com/about/history/1900_1950.jsp
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Old 11 Nov 08, 03:05
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According to a former military hospital administrator and one-time commander of a hospital for German POW's who was around and in the medical field when PCN was introduced - my father - there were a few recorded allergic reactions, as would naturally be expected with any type of drug being introduced. Because of previous lack of exposure, the reactions were fairly rare, however.

The military also created a number of allergic patients including myself due to experimentation with various forms of drug delivery. In my case, the Army tested PCN chewing gum for kids with ear infections, not realizing that the low dose that was absorbed did little to treat the infection and a lot to sensitize the patient to eventual allergy. In my case, after two unsuccessful treatments with the medicated gum, I went my merry way until I was hospitalized at Letterman at age 18 with a badly infected arm. Shot full of PCN when I arrived with my 104 fever, I developed a massive allergic reasction and spent two additional weeks in the hospital being treated for that. The reaction was eventually traced to the long ago medicated gum trials, which no on suspected at the time would cause a problem.
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