Sulfa allergy is the second most common drug allergy in general medicine. Sulfa drugs can be used to treat acne, and are commonly used to treat women with urinary tract infections. Due to the high sensitivity to sulfa drugs, they are being used less frequently by dermatologists. However, they continue to be widely used to treat women with UTI’s.
If you experience a rash after taking any medication, tell you doctor immediately. Some common symptoms of sulfa allergy are as follows:
Skin reactions: Ranging from various benign rashes to life-threatening Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Hives and increased sensitivity to sunlight are also possible.
Liver and kidney injury: hepatitis and kidney failure can develop as a result of sulfa allergy
Lung reaction: Asthma and vasculitis can worsen when allergic to sulfa
Blood reactions: Sulfa allergy can decrease the presence of white and red blood cells, and platelets.
If you have a sulfa allergy, make sure to question your doctor about the sulfa content of your medication, especially when you have any of these conditions:
Urinary tract infections: Some of the more common types of antibiotics used to fight urinary tract infections are sulfa-based drugs, nitrofurantoin, quinolones and Ampicillin type drugs. A new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control finds that sulfa medications, taken during pregnancy to treat UTI’s, can increase the risk for a variety of birth defects including: neural tube defects, various cardiovascular disorders, hernia, and shortened limb growth.
Acne: Sulfa drugs are less often used for acne today, probably due to the higher frequency of adverse reactions. Nevertheless, they may have a role when other antibiotics have failed
Inflammatory bowel disease and rhematorid arthritis: Sulfasalasine can be prescribed
Seizures: Zonisamide is a sulfonamide medication prescribed
Also, be aware of the following antibiotics that contain sulfa: Septra®, Bactrim®, sulfadizine, sulfisoxazole, and dapsone. Topical sulfa antibiotics, such as sulfacetamide eye drops/shampoos/creams, silver sulfadiazine cream, and sulfanilamide vaginal preparations. And, diuretic medications: such as hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and furosemide (Lasix)
Even if you are allergic to sulfa, it is possible to use it when the need for a life saving therapy outweighs the history of allergic reaction. Doctors can give small doses of the drug at a time to desensitize a patient to an adverse reaction.