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Food Allergies  

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Definition  

Sulfites are compounds that are used to make foods and beverages last longer. Sulfite sensitivity is an abnormal reaction to these compounds.

Foods that may contain sulfites include:

  • Beer, wine, and soft drinks
  • Cookies, crackers, pie crust, and pizza crust
  • Dried fruit
  • Shrimp, lobster, and scallops
  • French fries and other food made with peeled potatoes, such as instant mashed potatoes
  • Fruit or vegetable juice
  • Canned fruits or vegetables
  • Syrup and fruit toppings
  • Pickles, relish, olives, and salad dressing
  • Noodle or rice mixes
  • Dried soup mixes
  • Deli meats, mince meat, sausages

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications also contain sulfites. Sulfites are also contained in products applied to the skin, such as cosmetics.

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Causes  

It is not clear what causes a sulfite sensitivity to develop. It may be due to genetic and environmental factors.

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Risk Factors  

There are no known risk factors for sulfite sensitivity. Most people with sulfite sensitivity have asthma.

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Symptoms  

Most symptoms are mild and can vary based on your body’s reaction to sulfite ingestion. It may be one or a combination of the following:

When the stomach breaks down sulfites, it releases a sulfur dioxide gas. This gas can pass up into and irritate airways in some people, such as those with asthma. This can cause symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Some people may lack the enzyme needed to breakdown sulfites. This can cause:

Some may also have an allergic reaction to sulfites. This means sulfites cause an autoimmune reaction, which may cause:

  • Skin rash
  • Skin inflammation
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Diagnosis