What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Sulfites?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 January 2020
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An allergic reaction to sulfites can take on many forms and may range from mild to potentially life-threatening in nature. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include runny nose, difficulty breathing, and the development of a rash. Gastrointestinal disturbances, dizziness, and personality changes are also possible signs of an allergic reaction to sulfites. In the most severe cases, an anaphylactic reaction may occur, possibly leading to sudden death. A doctor should be consulted any time that an allergic reaction to sulfites is suspected in order to rule out the presence of serious complications.

In many cases, an allergic reaction to sulfites closely mimics the symptoms of asthma. Wheezing, chest tightening, and coughing may be accompanied by a runny nose or nasal congestion. Those who already have respiratory issues such as asthma or bronchitis may notice a worsening of symptoms. Headaches and dizziness are also relatively common, although a sudden or severe headache should be evaluated by a medical professional right away.

Stomach and intestinal issues are possible signs of an allergic reaction to sulfites. Abdominal cramps, nausea, and loss of appetite are possible, especially when eating foods that contain sulfites. Severe vomiting or diarrhea may lead to dehydration, so extra fluids should be consumed. If there is blood in the stool or if the vomit looks like coffee grounds, a trip to the nearest emergency department is recommended.


Personality changes can sometimes indicate the presence of an allergic reaction to sulfites. Irritability, hyperactivity, and anxiety may develop as a result of an allergy or sensitivity to this ingredient. Some doctors recommend removing sulfites from a child's diet when attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is suspected.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe complication of an allergic reaction to sulfites and can prove fatal in just a matter of minutes. Often, a rash develops around the mouth, although it may be present on the entire body. The face and eyes may begin to swell, followed by swelling of the tongue and throat. Blood pressure levels may drop suddenly, causing faintness or a loss of consciousness.

Due to the possible occurrence of anaphylaxis, any potential signs of an allergic reaction to sulfites should be reported to a doctor right away. If anaphylaxis is suspected, an ambulance should called so that supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or resuscitation efforts, can begin before the patient reaches the hospital. Additional supportive care will be provided at the hospital, and the patient will be given a special injectible medication to carry at all times in the event of a recurrence.


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