4 Things You Need to Know about Sulfite Allergies

Posted on: 8 September 2015

Sulfites are compounds that are naturally present both in the human body and in foods. Sulfites are also added to some foods as a preservative. Since sulfites are so widespread, sulfite allergies are hard to deal with. Here are four things you need to know about this allergy.

Where are sulfites found?

Sulfites can be found in a wide variety of foods and drinks. They can be found in alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine, in baked goods like cookies and pizza crust, in snacks such as trail mix and dried fruits, and in condiments like relish or salad dressing. If you're allergic to sulfites, you'll need to carefully read food labels. Sulfites may be listed as sulfites, potassium bisulfate, or sodium bisulfite in ingredient lists, and in some cases they may be present in the food but not listed on the label.

Sulfites can also be found in a wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications, so make sure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of your allergy. Anti-nausea medications, antibiotics, muscle relaxants, steroids, and anesthetics may contain sulfites.

What are the signs of sulfite allergies?

Sulfite allergies can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Some people experience minor symptoms like sneezing, while others develop a rash and hives on their skin or migraines. Others will have trouble breathing within a few minutes of consuming sulfites, though fortunately, anaphylactic reactions are rare.

How do allergists diagnose this allergy?

Your allergist will have you do an oral food challenge to diagnose your sulfite allergy. This test is a very accurate way to test for food allergies. Your allergist will give you a small amount of a food that contains sulfites and then monitor you for symptoms. If you don't react, you'll be given more, and then monitored again. This process is repeated until you show symptoms. If you don't show any symptoms, you'll know that you're not allergic to sulfites.

Oral food challenges are a simple test, but they're only safe when they're done with an allergist's supervision. You should never try to self-diagnose yourself by trying an oral food challenge at home because of the risk of serious reactions.

How are sulfite allergies treated?

You'll need to be very careful to avoid sulfites, but since they're so widespread, you'll also need to be prepared for a reaction. Your allergist may tell you to carry antihistamines or an epinephrine autoinjector with you, depending on the severity of your reaction.

If you think you're allergic to sulfites, see an allergist like Allergy Clinic - Idaho right away to be tested.