Sulfites are natural or added chemicals in some foods and drinks to enhance flavor. For some people, these chemicals can cause a mild or severe allergic reaction. Sulfites are mostly found in processed foods, but they can also occur naturally in the process of making beer and wine. Some people may just have a slight sensitivity to sulfites, which include digestive problems. Whether you have a true sulfite allergy or just a sensitivity, it’s important to know which foods to avoid. The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers have created a list of foods and drinks that you may need to stay away from. Foods/Drinks That May Contain Sulfites Dried fruits Molasses Potato chips Bottled lemon juice Sauerkraut Fresh mushrooms Bottled lime juice Gravies/sauces Imported fruit juice/soft drinks Wine Fruit toppings Processed foods This is just a short list of the many items that may contain sulfites. It’s important to read the labels of all the products you consume. There are also some ingredients to look for that contain sulfites. These ingredients include: Sulfur dioxide Potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite Sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite Sulfite Allergy Symptoms Breathing problems/asthma Digestive problems Allergic rhinitis Hives Flushing The most common symptoms of a sulfite allergy are related to asthma. Up to 10% of asthma patients suffer from this allergy. Symptoms range from wheezing to more severe cases of asthma attacks. If your asthma worsens after eating or drinking certain products, seek medical attention to determine if you have a sulfite allergy. Diagnosing A Sulfite Allergy Since there is not an accurate allergy test to diagnose a sulfite allergy, an allergy food challenge is necessary. In this case, a board-certified allergist will feed you sulfites in small amounts to see if it evokes a reaction. If an allergic reaction is seen, your allergist will provide a treatment plan. Food challenges should only be done in a safe, clinical setting. You should never try to diagnose your own allergy. An allergist will have emergency equipment on hand in the event you experience a life-threatening allergic reaction. Your allergist can also provide allergy medications to soothe any symptoms related to your sulfite allergy. Sulfite Allergy Treatment Symptoms related to a sulfite allergy usually subside on their own. However, more severe reactions need treatment provided by an allergist. For asthma symptoms, an inhaled corticosteroid needs to be prescribed. Keep your inhaler with you to soothe your asthma symptoms throughout the day. Sulfite Allergies rarely cause anaphylaxis, but if you’re really sensitive to sulfites, consult with your allergist about carrying an epinephrine auto-injector. They will determine if an EpiPen is necessary for your condition. Sulfite Allergy Frequently Asked Questions Are there sulfite-free wines? Sulfite occurs naturally in wine, so it’s impossible for it to be completely sulfite free. However, there are brands that don’t use added sulfites. Is sulfite allergy the same as sulfa allergy? No, sulfites are different from sulfa. Sulfa is a drug used in some antibiotics. Are sulfites the same as sulfates? Sulfates and sulfites are both sulfur-based compounds, but they are used for different things. Sulfates are usually harsh chemicals added to soaps, detergent, and other cleaners. Sulfites are more natural and act as preservatives. Is sulfite allergy genetic? No, sulfite allergy is not genetic. Conclusion If you believe you suffer from a sulfite allergy, contact our NYC allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. We offer allergy testing and treatment for most allergies and can diagnose your allergy today. NYASC offers six convenient locations throughout Manhattan and Queens. Call (212) 686-4448 to book your appointment.