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What is the difference between sulfa allergies and sulfite allergies?

ANSWER

A sulfa allergy sounds like a sulfite allergy, but they’re very different. Sulfa drugs treat health conditions. Sulfites are preservatives used in many foods, drinks (especially wine), and medications.

Sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms and on rare occasions can cause anaphylaxis. It’s common for people who have asthma to be sensitive to sulfites. But it’s unusual for other people.

Sulfa drugs and sulfites are not related. Neither are their allergies. There’s no need to give up dried fruit, wine, or other items that contain sulfites if you’re sensitive to sulfa drugs.

SOURCES:

DermNet New Zealand: “Sulfa Drugs and the Skin.”

Canadian Family Physician : “Approach to Managing Patients with Sulfa Allergy.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Drug Allergies.”

Merck Manual, Professional Version: “Sulfonamides.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Sulfite Sensitivity.”

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson on May 12, 2019

SOURCES:

DermNet New Zealand: “Sulfa Drugs and the Skin.”

Canadian Family Physician : “Approach to Managing Patients with Sulfa Allergy.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Drug Allergies.”

Merck Manual, Professional Version: “Sulfonamides.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Sulfite Sensitivity.”

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson on May 12, 2019

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What should you do if you think you have an allergy?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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