Everything you Need to Know about Sulfa Allergies

Sulfa drugs are effective in treating various health issues, from eye infections to rheumatoid arthritis. Some people have got a rash or more serious allergic reactions while taking one of the drugs from sulfonamide group. This is often called as a sulfa allergy.

Sulfa allergy is a term used to describe an adverse reaction to a group of drugs known as sulfonamides. The group of medications includes both antibiotics and non-antibiotic drugs. Allergic reactions, mostly, occur with the use of antibiotic medications. It has been estimated that around 3% of people develop some allergic reactions to them. You must inform your health care provider if you think you have developed a reaction to a sulfa drug. Your health specialist will be the one who will decide whether to stop the treatment and how to treat allergic symptoms and signs. One may have a different type of allergies including skin rash, breathing issues, swelling, and itching with sulfa drugs. The reactions can also cause serious allergic diseases that need special medical attention.

Symptoms of sulfa allergy

The common symptoms associated with sulfa allergy are:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • A headache
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, mouth, and throat
  • Asthma attacks in people with asthma

Other reactions with the use of sulfa drugs include trouble sleeping, low blood counts, cloudy urine. Rarely, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis that requires immediate medical attention happens.

Visit your nearest medical center immediately if you have developed any allergic symptoms and signs of sulfa drugs.

Medications to avoid sulfa allergies

Sulfa drugs, especially antibiotics have been widely used for more than 70 years. Today, in this modern world, these drugs include ophthalmic solutions, vaginal suppositories, burn cream, and other medications to treat a certain type of infections. If a person develops an allergic reaction to one of the sulfa antibiotic, then there are possibilities that he/she become allergic to almost all of them. Some sulfa agents that could cause problems include:

  • Sulfadiazine silver– A cream for treating and preventing burn infections
  • Sulfasalazine- These are pills formulated to treat rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Sulfacetamide- Eye drops for treating eye infections. The most common eye infection is allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim- It is a sulfa combination drug usually taken in a pill or a liquid form to treat many allergic reactions.

All these medications should not be used in people with sulfa allergy, as these can cause severe reactions.

Some safe sulfa drugs

Even if you are allergic to sulfa antibiotics, you might be able to use some sulfa agents without getting any adverse effect or a serious allergic reaction. These safe medications include:

  • Celecoxib, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, also called as NSAIDs
  • Water pills also called diuretics. These include hydrochlorothiazide and furosemide
  • Sumatriptan, a migraine medication
  • Glyburide, a drug used to manage blood glucose levels

Despite the safer side of these medications, informing your health care provider if you have a sulfa allergy before using them is necessary.

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