What allergies are caused by sulfites

While there own been some case reports of people being diagnosed with sulfite allergy using skin testing, there's no dependable, commercially available skin test for sulfite allergy. Typically, the diagnosis is suggested by a history of adverse reactions after consuming sulfite-containing foods or medications.

In order for the diagnosis to be confirmed, an allergist may act out an oral challenge for a patient suspected of having a sulfite allergy. This procedure involves giving a person increasing amounts of sulfites to swallow while closely monitoring lung function and vital signs.

A significant drop in lung function confirms sensitivity to sulfites.

This test should only be performed under the direct supervision of a physician who's been trained and is experienced with this procedure.

Sulfite Allergy Foods

Dried fruits Molasses Potato chips
Bottle lemon juice Sauerkraut Fresh mushrooms
Bottles lime juice Gravies/ sauces Imported fruit juice/ soft drinks
Wine/ beer Fruit toppings Processed foods

This is just a short list of the numerous items that may contain sulfites.

It’s significant to read the labels of every the products you consume. However, the FDA doesn’t require companies to label products containing less than 10 ppm of sulfites. This is because foods containing only a little quantity of sulfites haven’t been known to cause allergy symptoms.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

There are also some ingredients to glance for that contain sulfites. These ingredients include:

• Sulfur dioxide
• Potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite
• Sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite

Some foods contain higher levels of sulfites and may produce more severe symptoms. These include dried fruits, grape juices, and wine. Other foods contain low levels of sulfites and may be safe to consume. Low levels of sulfites are also found in some medications. Although these medications haven’t been known to cause severe allergic reactions, you should consult with your doctor to determine if they’re safe for you.


It’s not completely known how sulfites cause reactions in certain people.

Some people clearly make allergic antibodies against sulfites, while others do not. The gasses generated from sulfites might cause muscle spasms in the lungs of some asthmatics, or the reaction could be related to the inability of some people to metabolize the sulfites appropriately.

Sulfite Allergy Medications

Epinephrine Bronkosol Isuprel
Dopamine Garamycin Novocaine
Thorazine Aramine Bleph

Sulfites are added to these medications to prevent discoloration which can decrease the effectiveness of the drug.

While epinephrine does contain sulfites, it is the only treatment for anaphylaxis and should not be avoided by individuals allergic to sulfites. Epinephrine hasn’t been reported to cause any allergic reactions.

Medications That Contain Sulfites

Sulfites are added to some medications for their antioxidant properties as well as to prevent browning (discoloration) of medications. Sulfites are added to injectable epinephrine (for example, the EpiPen) to prevent browning, which decreases the effectiveness of the drug.

However, epinephrine has not been reported to cause adverse reactions in people with a sulfite allergy and should not be withheld in an allergic emergency.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

Injectable epinephrine may prove life-saving in people with a sulfite allergy who are experiencing anaphylaxis.

Some inhaler solutions used to treat asthma contain sulfites, although numerous asthma drugs own had sulfites removed due to safety concerns. People with a sulfite allergy should avoid medications containing sulfites, except for injectable epinephrine (for example, EpiPen and Twinject).

Here are examples of medications that contain sulfites:

The FDA now requires that any food containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) concentration of sulfites to be declared on the label. This is because foods that contain less than 10 ppm of sulfites own not been shown to cause symptoms, even in people allergic to sulfites.

You’ve probably heard of red wine headaches and the suspected culprit, sulfites.

While their reputation as the migraine harbingers isn’t exactly deserved, they can cause other serious problems.

Sulfites prevent browning or discoloration in food love baked goods, condiments, potatoes and shrimp. The chemicals are particularly prevalent in dried fruit love apricots, to preserve the light coloring after drying. Winemakers also use sulfites to maintain freshness and prevent oxidation.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

In the ’70s and ’80s, the use of sulfites as food preservatives drastically increased, as did the number of people who began experiencing reactions.

«A sulfite sensitivity is a genuine thing, but it’s not a true allergy,» says Dr. Steve Taylor, director of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska. «An allergy involves some abnormal response of the immune system, and the immune system is not involved in this at every. It is some form of intolerance.»

Most allergic reactions happen after inhaling the sulfites powdered on foods while eating them.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

This can then lead to difficulty breathing or wheezing, but the Food and Drug istration (FDA) says that less than 1% of the population in the United States experiences this sensitivity.

The people most at risk are asthmatics, especially those who use steroid medications. Taylor says that about 5 to 10% of people with asthma will own a sulfite sensitivity, but it’s extremely rare for non-sufferers to experience it. Even 80% of asthmatics with mild symptoms don’t own sulfite sensitivities.

Since , the FDA has become more stringent about sulfites in foods, banning it in unused fruits and vegetables (minus potatoes) as well as salad bars.

For those looking to avoid sulfites, skip snacks with these ingredients:

  1. Sodium metabisulfite
  2. Sulfur dioxide
  3. Potassium bisulfite
  4. Potassium metabisulfite
  5. Sodium bisulfite
  6. Sodium sulfite

As for the oft-cited wine headache, Taylor says there’s no confirmation supporting the link.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

In fact, wine contains 10 times less sulfites than dried fruits. For those people who own eaten dried fruits and own never had issues, a sulfite sensitivity is most likely not the cause.

If you suspect you might own a sensitivity, Taylor recommends seeing an allergist. A professional confirmation means you’ll own to give up wine and dried fruit, but there are plenty of other treats that are fair game.

Sulfites are natural or added chemicals in some foods and drinks to enhance flavor. They are mostly found in processed foods, but they can also happen naturally in the process of making beer and wine.

They’re also used in some medications to increase shelf life.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

The FDA has deemed sulfites safe to consume, however, for some people, these chemicals can cause a mild or severe allergic reaction, most commonly asthma symptoms.

Some individuals create allergic antibodies against sulfites, while others may just suffer from a sulfite sensitivity. In this case, the sensitivity affects the digestive system instead of the immune system. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, indigestion, and vomiting. Whether you own a true sulfite allergy or just a sensitivity, it’s significant to know which foods to avoid.

The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers own created a sulfite allergy food list that you may need to stay away from.

Why Sulfites Are Added to Foods

Sulfites are added to foods for various reasons. These include:

  1. Conditioning of dough in the frozen pie and pizza crust
  2. Reducing bacterial spoilage
  3. Slowing the browning of fruit, vegetables, and seafood
  4. Inhibiting growth of bacteria during fermentation of wines
  5. Bleaching effect for maraschino cherries and hominy

In the past, sulfites were added to unused foods in restaurants and grocery stores to prevent browning. An increase in reactions led the Food and Drug istration (FDA) to ban the use of sulfites in unused foods in , particularly on unused lettuce in salad bars.

Foods That Contain Sulfites

There are a number of foods that contain sulfites.

Greater than ppm of sulfites (very high levels; strict avoidance advised in people with sulfite allergy)

  1. Grape juices (white, white sparkling, pink sparkling, red sparkling)
  2. Bottled lemon juice (non-frozen)
  3. Dried fruits (excluding dark raisins and prunes)
  4. Wine
  5. Molasses
  6. Bottled lime juice (non-frozen)
  7. Sauerkraut (and its juice)
  8. Pickled cocktail onions

Between 50 and ppm of sulfites (moderate to high levels of sulfite; avoidance advised in people with sulfite allergy)

  1. Fruit toppings
  2. Dried potatoes
  3. Wine vinegar
  4. Gravies/sauces
  5. Maraschino cherries

Between 10 and ppm of sulfites (low to moderate levels of sulfite, may cause symptoms in people with severe sulfite allergy)

  1. Avocado dip/guacamole
  2. Pickles/relish
  3. Pectin
  4. Fresh mushrooms
  5. Imported jams and jellies
  6. Corn syrup
  7. Frozen potatoes
  8. Dehydrated vegetables
  9. Canned/jarred clams
  10. Various cheeses
  11. Pickled peppers
  12. Cornstarch
  13. Hominy
  14. Maple syrup
  15. Clam chowder
  16. Imported sausages and meats
  17. Cornbread/muffin mix
  18. Cordials (alcoholic)
  19. Imported fruit juices and soft drinks
  20. Fresh shrimp
  21. Ciders and cider vinegar

Less than 10 ppm of sulfites (very low sulfite levels, generally do not pose a risk, even for people with sulfite allergy)

  1. Grapes
  2. Dry soup mix
  3. Malt vinegar
  4. Gelatin
  5. Beet sugar
  6. Canned potatoes
  7. Frozen pizza and pie dough
  8. Fresh fruit salad
  9. Crackers
  10. Domestic jams and jellies
  11. Beer
  12. Soft drinks
  13. Coconut
  14. Cookies
  15. High fructose corn syrup


The excellent news is that sulfites generally don't cause problems in people without allergies and asthma, even when large amounts are consumed.

However, in 3 to 10 percent of people with asthma, sulfites are known to increase asthma symptoms love wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

This generally occurs in adults with severe and/or poorly controlled disease. Numerous well-controlled studies show that some asthmatics can own severe asthma symptoms after eating sulfite-containing foods/beverages or inhaling sulfite fumes or vapors.

Less is known about developing hives/swelling and anaphylaxis as a result of sulfites, although various cases own been described in which consuming sulfite-containing foods/beverages led to severe allergic reactions.

What allergies are caused by sulfites

Some of these people even had positive skin tests for sulfites, suggesting allergic antibodies to the preservative were present.

Other people own experienced severe reactions from sulfite-containing medications, including intravenous drugs and inhaled medications. These reactions included flushing, hives, and a drop in lung function as a result of taking the medications.

Sulfites don't appear to be a culprit in people suffering from repeated episodes of anaphylaxis of unknown cause. They're also not a risk for anaphylaxis in people with mastocytosis, a rare disorder caused when an excessive number of mast (immune) cells collect together and appear to present little to no risk for people without asthma and without atopy, the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases.