How to Live With an Allergy to Sulfites

Sulfites occur naturally in some foods. They are also commonly added to many foods and drugs to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, stop foods from becoming discolored, and maintain the strength of some medications. For people who are allergic to sulfites, the dangers may outweigh the benefits. Use this information to learn how to live with an allergy to sulfites.


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    Learn the names of the substances that are commonly referred to as "sulfites."
    • Common names are sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bi-sulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium dithionite, and sulphurous acid.
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    Research the most common foods and beverages that contain sulfites. Take notes on what foods have naturally occurring sulfites and sulfite additives.
    • The list includes beer and wine, baked goods, cider, condiments, jams, processed snack foods, fruits and vegetables (canned, dried and as juices), french fries and other peeled potatoes, shrimp and other shellfish, eggs, some types of fish, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, tea, and many prepared foods.
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    Know the symptoms of allergic reactions to sulfites. Common symptoms are headaches, a rise in body temperature, hives, dizziness, congestion and an upset stomach.
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    Create an emergency medical plan. Share the plan with friends and family. Keeping those around you informed of what to do in case of a severe allergic reaction can speed treatment.
    • If your doctor recommends that you use a rescue inhaler or take an injection if you begin to have an allergic reaction, carry the inhaler or other form of medication with you.
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    Read food and drink labels carefully. Sulfites can still be present in the product even if the label doesn't list them as additives. The food or beverage may contain food items that contain naturally-occurring sulfites.
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    Order specially prepared meals. When dining out, ask your server to find out if the foods you'd like to order are prepared with sulfites. Ask that the chef prepare your meal without sulfites.
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    Avoid canned and processed foods. Many of these foods contain sulfites.
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    Drink plenty of water. The extra water will help flush the sulfites out of your system if you are having a mild allergic reaction.


  • Most wines contain sulfites. There are some organic wines available that are made without sulfites. Be sure to read labels carefully. When in doubt, check with the distributor or the winery directly to be sure the wine does not contain sulfites.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace signaling your sulfite allergy. This notifies those around you of your allergy in case you are incapacitated due to a severe allergic reaction.


  • If you have asthma in addition to an allergy to sulfites, an allergic reaction could be life-threatening. Immediate treatment is critical in order to try to minimize the severity of the reaction.

Article Info

Categories: Allergies and Immunization