SPECIAL kids study

Project overview

The SPECIAL Kids Study is a randomised controlled trial currently recruiting children with unverified antibiotic allergy labels. The aim of the study is to clinically establish the child’s true antibiotic allergy status, and to assess the long term clinical and cost benefits of appropriate ‘de-labelling’.

The study is generously funded by the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation.


Project background

What is an antibiotic allergy label?

If an unexpected reaction occurs during antibiotic treatment, the patient or the prescribing doctor may suspect that an antibiotic allergy is the cause. This suspicion, if unverified, can lead to a patient reporting an allergy on subsequent presentation to another provider or to hospital staff.

At this point the patient is said to be antibiotic allergy ‘labelled’ because alerts are attached to their medical records, and they may be given allergy-identifying wristbands. This procedure is followed in hospitals as a safety measure to protect the patient from receiving a drug that will result in a severe allergic reaction like, for example, anaphylaxis.

Six percent of West Australian children report an allergy label and up to 25% of general medical patients, however up to 90% of adults reporting penicillin allergy can tolerate the drug and are not truly allergic. As such the consequences associated with restricted antibiotic options can be far reaching.

Why is it important for a person to know their antibiotic allergy status?

An antibiotic drug allergy label, if incorrectly assigned, may lead to unnecessary avoidance of antibiotics. This affects otherwise healthy people and those with chronic illness. People, including children, with antibiotic allergy labels are more likely to be readmitted to hospital after discharge and have recurrent infections. However, some children may be truly allergic and this can be confirmed by testing them with small doses of antibiotic under medical supervision in a hospital environment.

Confirming a child’s antibiotic allergy status will increase the likelihood of them receiving safer health care in the future.

Project researchers 


  • Clinical Professor Michaela Lucas, Clinical Immunologist and Allergist
  • Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern Sternberg, Consultant Anaesthetist and Chair of Paediatric Anaesthesia
  • Dr Kristina Rueter, Emergency Physician, Paediatric Immunologist and Allergist

Project staff

  • Annabelle Arnold, Clinical Nurse
  • Dr Renee Berry, Medical Registrar
  • Zaheerah Haywood, Research Coordinator

Research project staff

  • Cathy Power
  • Aine Sommerfield PhD
  • Lliana Slevin BSc
  • Michelle Trevenen BSc 

Funding partner

Perth Children's Hospital Foundation


  • National Allergy Strategy
  • Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia
  • University of Western Australia
Last Updated: 28/06/2022