The term sulfa allergy describes a person’s adverse drug reactions to sulfonamides. This is a group of drugs that were the first antibiotics used to treat infections. Today they are used with a lot less frequency because of their side effects. The most common sulfa antibiotics are Bactrim, Septra and Pediazole.
Similar to some other antibiotics such as penicillin, the incidence of adverse drug reactions to sulfa antibiotics is approximately 3 percent. As with most medications, there are some particular groups who appear to be at a higher risk level for sulfa allergy, including people who metabolize these medications slower and those with immune problems such as AIDS.
One should consider that some of the common symptoms of sulfa allergy include skin reactions, liver and kidney injury, lung reactions and blood reactions.
It is the skin reactions that are the most common adverse reactions to sulfa medications. These can range from various benign rashes to life-threatening illnesses, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Also possible are increased sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity) and hives. If the sulfa medication is continued in spite of the appearance of a mild rash, there is a possibility that the rash could progress and develop into a more severe form of skin reaction.
As a result of sulfa medications, some people with sulfa allergy may develop a type of hepatitis and kidney failure.
Lung reactions related to sulfa allergy can bring about pneumonia-like reactions, possibly worsening asthma and vasculitis symptoms.
Various blood cells can be negatively affected by sulfa allergy, resulting in decreased white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, through an immunologic-mediated manner.
The diagnosis of sulfa allergy is made when a person, who is taking a sulfonamide medication, experiences symptoms consistent with those seen in sulfa allergy. This is due to the fact that there is no skin test or blood test available to diagnose sulfa allergy.
Basically, if a person is experiencing any adverse reaction to a sulfa medication, that medication should be discontinued. There is a good chance that the symptoms of the reaction may need to be treated, especially in those experiencing Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis.
In some cases in which a sulfa medication is required in order to treat certain infections, a person might be desensitized to the medication. The manner in which this is accomplished is by initially giving the patient very small amounts of the medication, and increasing the amounts given over a period of time so that the medication is tolerated. The sulfonamide medication can also be continued cautiously regardless of the adverse side effect. It is recommended that these patients should be treated by an allergist experienced in the management of drug allergies.
There are several drugs a person should stay away from if he or she is a sufferer of sulfa allergy. Outlined below are a few of the medications that contain sulfa. These should be not be taken by anyone who suffers from sulfa allergy. They include sulfa antibiotics, celebrex, diuretics, and zonisamide.
Anyone who experiences an allergic reaction to a sulfa based medication or any form of medication is strongly advised to seek medical help. This is the only way that the person will be able to reduce his or her chances of having another allergic reaction in future.