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A sulfonamide is a drug containing the chemical compound SO2NH2. Researchers initially developed sulfonamides to treat bacterial infections. Other uses of drugs in this class can include medications used for the management of inflammation, seizures, and headaches. A doctor must write a prescription for a sulfonamide in order for a patient to access it. Most pharmacies carry these drugs and can order specific medications with some advance notice. Patients concerned about drug availability can ask their doctors to recommend a pharmacy, as doctors sometimes know where their prescriptions can be most easily filled.
In bacterial infections, sulfonamide drugs act as bacteriostatic medications, inhibiting enzymes involved in bacterial growth. Preventing the growth of bacteria will eventually stop the infection, as the bacteria can no longer spread. Drugs in this class are effective against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, and a doctor may administer them alone or in combination with other antibiotic therapies for more efficacy. A doctor makes decisions about dosing and course of treatment on the basis of the circumstances of an individual case.
The sulfonamide drugs are notoriously associated with severe allergic reactions in patients. Patients with allergies to these drugs can develop skin reactions, as well as other problems, and allergies may emerge at any time. Concerns about allergies have led doctors to be more careful about how and when they prescribe these medications. Doctors will ask patients about a history of reactions to sulfa drugs, as sulfonamides are known.
Patients being asked about sulfonamide allergies should be aware that drugs in this class do not always include “sulfa” in their names, and may not always be used for bacterial infections. Any history of bad drug reactions should be reported so the doctor can check to see if those drugs contained sulfonamide ingredients. A patient can also ask that this information be recorded in pharmaceutical records and patient charts so it will be available for future reference. This can reduce the risk of emergency administration of dangerous medications.
Patients on sulfonamide medications can experience a variety of side effects, depending on the drugs they are taking. Antibiotic medications like these commonly cause nausea and other intestinal symptoms. Patients should report symptoms like difficulty breathing, skin rashes, confusion, or dizziness, as these can be signs of an allergic reaction. A doctor may opt to take the patient off the sulfa drug and explore other medications with the goal of preventing complications caused by allergic reactions.
It's worth noting that sulfonamide derivatives are often among the cheaper antibiotics, if I'm not mistaken - they have been around a long time.
Whereas the drugs they give you if you are allergic tend to be more expensive "designer" antibiotics. If you're allergic to sulfa, it's worth paying a little extra attention to your prescription insurance!
I'm allergic to sulfa drugs and I also have congenital toxoplasmosis. (You know how pregnant women aren't supposed to change litter boxes? It's so they won't give their babies what I have. Fortunately, my case is mild.) They usually treat flare-ups with a sulfa drug, but in my case they had to give me clindamycin - which is *not* cheap.
I also noticed that when I had outpatient surgery, a "sulfa allergy" band was put on my wrist at the hospital. Uncomfortable, but definitely better safe than sorry!