Do You Need To Avoid Wine If You Are Allergic To Sulfa Drugs?

Drugs with sulfonamides serve as an important frontline defense in treating certain infections. However, up to 8% of people are allergic to these sulfa drugs, according to a 2019 article in Pharmacy. A sulfa allergy can bring on symptoms such as rash, hives, trouble breathing, or swelling. In severe cases, sulfa allergies can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of your throat, coughing, hives, or diarrhea (via Medical News Today). Although Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare form of a sulfa allergy, it can cause flu-like symptoms or blistering of the mouth, throat, or genitals.

Sulfa drugs can be found in burn creams, vaginal creams, and some eye drops, so it's important to look for ingredients like sulfamethoxazole or sulfacetamide if you have a sulfa allergy (via WebMD). Although certain foods and drinks like wine contain sulfites, they are not the same as sulfa drugs that treat infections. Therefore, you can safely drink wine if you have a sulfa drink allergy.

The difference between sulfa drugs and sulfites

Sure, it might seem like sulfa drugs and sulfites are the same since they share the same prefix, but sulfa refers to sulfonamides that treat bacterial infections (via Healthline). Sulfites are preservatives used in foods and drinks to avoid discoloration, according to theĀ Cleveland Clinic. Sulfites were used heavily in the 1970s and 1980s until people started having allergic reactions to them. The Food and Drug Administration banned using sulfites on fresh fruit and vegetables. If you're allergic to sulfites, you might need to avoid wine. You should also check the label for ingredients like sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, or sodium sulfite if you want to avoid sulfites.

You won't find sulfonamides in foods, but they are common in many types of medications, such as antibiotics. People with a sulfa allergy should avoid antibiotics that combine a sulfa drug with others, such as sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (via Mayo Clinic). Sulfasalazine, which treats conditions such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, should be avoided if you have a sulfa allergy. Dermatitis drugs like Dapsone could also trigger a sulfa allergy reaction. Certain medications that have sulfonamides might not trigger a sulfa reaction, such as medications for diabetes and migraines.

Treating sulfa drug allergies

Sulfa drug allergies can be tough to diagnose because there isn't a specific test (via Mayo Clinic). Why people develop a sulfa drug allergy is unknown, but people with HIV or AIDS could also be allergic to sulfa drugs (via Medical News Today). If you experience an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug, the treatment will depend on the symptoms you experience. If you have hives or itching, an antihistamine can be used to treat your allergic reaction. A bronchodilator can treat respiratory symptoms such as wheezing to help open up the lungs. People who experience anaphylaxis will need epinephrine. The rare cases of Stevens-Johnson syndrome will require a trip to the ICU, where the medical team will administer corticosteroids, antibiotics, and immunoglobulins to prevent the disease's progression.

If you need a specific sulfa drug to treat your condition, a medical professional could work with you to help your body desensitize your allergic reaction. People with a sulfa drug allergy should also carry a medical ID in case of an emergency (via WebMD).