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What Are the Symptoms of a Sulfonamide Allergy?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sulfonamide is a type of prescription antibiotic which is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections within the body. Some people may be sensitive to this type of medication or may develop a sulfonamide allergy, even after successfully taking this medication in the past. Common symptoms which may indicate a sulfonamide allergy include abnormal skin reactions, worsening of asthma symptoms, nausea, and liver or kidney damage. In more severe cases, a potentially life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis may occur. Any questions or concerns about possible signs of a sulfonamide allergy should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Mild to moderate skin reactions are among the most common symptoms of a sulfonamide allergy. Some people may experience a mild rash over all or part of the body which may or may not itch. Others may develop red, raised areas known as hives, which often itch and may cause a burning sensation as well. The development of hives can sometimes indicate a severe type of allergic reaction and should be examined by a doctor right away. An increased sensitivity to sunlight may be an often overlooked sign of a sulfonamide allergy.

Mild respiratory issues may occur when a patient is experiencing an allergy to this type of medication. These symptoms frequently involve mild wheezing or a feeling of heaviness in the chest. Patients who have a history of asthma may notice a temporary increase in symptoms when using this antibiotic. Nausea when taking this medication is relatively common and can often be reduced by taking the drug with food or milk.

Liver or kidney damage is a potential complication arising from a sulfonamide allergy. This is a particular risk for those who take this antibiotic for prolonged periods of time. Damage to these organs tends to be slow, making this allergy symptom virtually impossible to notice until significant damage has already occurred.

Anaphylaxis is the medical term for a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. This type of sulfonamide allergy should be treated as a medical emergency. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling of the face and throat. Extreme nausea and vomiting may also occur during this type of reaction. If medical attention is not obtained immediately, the patient could lose partial or complete consciousness or even stop breathing, risking a loss of oxygen to the brain which can be fatal.

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