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Old 03-08-2007, 05:17 AM   #1
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Question Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

I'm really trying to figure this out, so please read this, and if you've ever seen a reaction like this to sulfa antibiotics (or anything, for that matter), please let me know. I've been searching everywhere.

Anyway, I know I had a bad reaction to a sulfa antibiotic, and I'm experienced with lab immunology, but even I'm actually not sure if this is defined as an allergy, or an intolerance, or something else altogether. I've seen all types of general allergic reactions - hives, rashes, swelling, fever, wheezing, anaphylactic shock - but this was NOT any of those, and I'm trying to figure out what it is. I'm not even sure if it's an allergy, or something else.

I was a teen when this happened, and wasn't taken to the doctor, so I didn't get to find out anything at time. I'd be content leaving this alone, but recently I found myself feeling similar symptoms, but I hadn't taken any sulfa antibiotics. Still, it reminded me very distinctly of the incident, so I'm trying to piece it together.

So, when I was a teenager, I had a sinus infection, and the doctor prescribed a sulfa antibiotic. A while after I took the first dose, I started to feel a bit weird, but I was sitting down, not doing anything physical, so I figured it was from the sinus infection. I was sitting at the table, and I went to lift my coffee cup, and got it a few inches off the table, and realized that I didn't have the strength to lift it the rest of the way. I tried to stand up, and discovered that I felt light-headed, woozy, and weak. I needed help getting to my bedroom, and intended to lie down until I felt better, but it just got worse. I wasn't in "pain", but everything ached all over in a strange way. My stomach felt funny, almost like I'd been kicked there a while before, so that I had the residual ache. My back hurt a bit, and I hadn't done anything to it. I couldn't sleep because my heart and lungs decided to act as if I'd just run a mile (and seeing as I'm a distance runner, I'd know the feeling). This went on for a few hours before I could finally go to sleep. Honestly, I remember wondering a few times if I was dying, because I'd never felt anything like it. Obviously, I wasn't dying, but I was a kid at the time, and I had no idea what to think. I felt marginally better the next day, but I didn't feel normal for a while.

Now, I'm generally healthy. I eat right, I exercise, I don't smoke, and alcohol wasn't in the picture at the time. I know my grandmother was allergic to sulfa, but I don't know what sort of reaction she had, because she's dead, and her old medical records only say that she can't take sulfa antibiotics. My mother and sister are't allergic, but I don't know my father's medical history.

Does anyone know if this is a simple allergic reaction or something else? And what else could have caused similar symptoms recently, even though I haven't taken any meds? It was almost identical to the sulfa-reaction, but without an obvious trigger. It's not normal for a healthy 26-year old to feel like my legs are made of lead, and to get out of breath and light-headed walking from point-A to point-B, with general weakness and overall exhaustion.

Oh, and no, I'm not allergic to penicillin or amoxicillin, even though I've been told that if I'm allergic to sulfa drugs, I'll probably be allergic to the penicillin family.

And before you ask, I don't have health insurance, so I don't particularly feel like squandering my scant life savings on doctors playing hunt-and-peck with "theories" and tests that turn up nothing.

Advice? Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

 
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Old 03-08-2007, 05:37 AM   #2
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

just an FYI here and my particular experience with zithromax?but you can have a host of really strange symptoms or side effect/reactions to antibiotics.they can range from experienceing heart palpatations to throwing up to dropping your BPs.and can most likely include what you experienced.talking to a pharmacist or looking up the drug and reading thru all of the possible side effects may shed some light on this for you.some antibiotics are just way too strong for our body chemistry to handle and others,we can just have some sort of a senstivity to.it all depends on the drug and how we are.this can actually happen with just about any drug,but anti Bs are really noted for some pretty extreme reactions in people.i didn't have what i would call a real allergic reaction to the zithro,but it made me feel inceredibly sick and dropped my BPs,and a host of other really bad crap.

whether or not(at this point anyway)you have an actual allergy to sulfa meds or some sort of a sensitivity to them,i would stay away completely if i were you and also wear a medic alert tag somewhere that lists this as an actual allergy just so you are not ever given this without your real knowledge.you know what i mean?at some point along the way.when you have insurance,you can actually be tested by a doc for any real allergy to them,but for now,since you do not actually know for certain,it would be best to err on the side of safety.good luck,FB

 
Old 03-08-2007, 06:24 AM   #3
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Thanks, FB. I already do list it as an allergy, and I've avoided it ever since, although I never considered a medic-alert type of tag. I always figured those were for people with diabetes, or other major illnesses. Hmm... might be a good idea.

But anyway, when I recently had a similar "reaction", yet I hadn't taken ANY meds, it got me a bit concerned. That's why I'm really hunting for an answer. It's true that there are all sorts of allergic reactions to stuff, but I'd never seen anyone report the same symptoms as mine for a reaction to sulfa drugs. I've mostly seen people report getting rashes, hives, etc.

Also, I don't think the sulfa antibiotic I took at the time was particularly strong. It was only prescribed to treat a sinus infection, and from what I know, it was one of the more "average" ones.

Any more thoughts? Anyone?

 
Old 03-10-2007, 06:17 AM   #4
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Phonenix,
so you're saying you had the same symtoms like you did when you were a child after you had taken a sulpha drug?
and now you're having the same symtoms but have NOT taken any medicaiton?
if so, than something else is going on in your body. I know what it's like to be ill and not have medical insurance to see a doctor. so you're trying to find out if anyone who reads your message has the same symtoms so you can possibly find out what it is.
self diagnosing is impossible as you see, but hopefully there will be someone out here with the same thing you expeirenced.
the body is made up so intrinctically that it can be anything.
maybe you have low iron? are you eating enough? do you drink enough fluids? are you a vegetarian?
when I had low iron many yrs ago, I had similar symtoms.
or it can be related to your lungs, your cardiovascular system, your vessels, anything. it's like finding a needle in a hay stack.

maybe the antibotic was administered to the animal you had just eaten the meat of. did you eat prior to having your symtoms?
they give antibiotics to animals before they're butchered and sent to the supermarkets. I think they still do that, but not sure.

maybe you have asthma? lack of oxygen can cause similar symtoms.
heaviness in the legs especially. forget about climbing any stairs or up a small hill. or mayby you have an autoimmune disease and aren't aware of it, yet.

I agree though, you're much too young to feel this way.

are there any type of health medical clinics in your area that are state run or government granted? they can see you on a sliding scale fee, so if you're not working the fee will be very affordable and if you're working, they'll charge you by what you make. which isn't alot. plus you can ask if you can pay in part. most doctors if you're honest with them will work with your situation. they're not all out just to make the money and when they took the oathe when they became a dr. , they agreed to help sick people the best they can witout charging a fortune.

this just happened to me a month ago. I had to go to the ER for sudden pain that was unbearable, I have no insurance, so you know I was in a lot of discomfort for me to go there. I thought it was adpendicitis. it wound up being they "think" it could be a kindey stone but they can't see it with the type of ct scan they gave me with contrast. they found out my right kidney is swollen and so is the the tube that leads from the bladder to the kidney.
they urged me to seek medical follow up with a urologist the very next day. which I didn't have insurance and I didn't want to take the chance of damaging my kidney. anway, I called various offices to check out their fees. just to walk thru the door without any sort of testing was crazy, and the total was over $200.00 and even $300.00 in another office. than a light bulb went off and I remembered I had seen a urologist just once in my past and I called there. they said the doctor will work with me but he has to tell me what the fee would be and that they couldn't. so I took my chance and made the apptn.
at the end of the visit he told the nurse that it would be $20.00 and if I can't afford that, he would accept less. well that just about set me off dancing where I could've ran back into his office and kiss him, hug him and say thankyou with all my heart. now THIS is a great doctor and one who believes in healing sick people. I wrote him a thank you letter. a very long one, as you see I can't ever write anything in moderation.
sorry for the short novel in explaining all this to you.

please keep in contact with us here to let us know what your diagnosis wound up being. I pray it's not something debilitating. you can also go to to your local hospital via ER and they can't turn you away by law if you have no insurance. that's the way it is here in New York.
they can run tests and blood work and they'll even take off money from the bill by the hundreds as a form of charity. they did it for me from that visit I had at the ER. there's no way I could afford to pay them back if they hadn't had the grasciousness and kindness to do this for me and others.

bye for now,

Linda

 
Old 03-10-2007, 12:02 PM   #5
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

After taking sulfa medication I became ill from head to toe, thru and thru. Never felt so horrible in all my life. No, I did not have rash or hives. I was just "PLAIN ILL", no other way to describe it. My doctor at the time told me to NEVER take sulfa again. This was many, many years ago and I still remember how ill I was.

Sulfa is in some diuretics and also acne topical meds. I do take diuretics and have no problem. I am now using a topical med with sulfa on face for Rosacea and so far so good.

Medical bracelets are not just for diabetics, they are for any medical condition that could prove dangerous for you in case you are unable to speak for yourself. I wear a jewelry looking medic alert bracelet with all my problems: Co2 defficient, diabetes, penecillin, codeine, aspirin, latex, sulfa, caffeine. Abbreviations are used for some of the words, just the common known abbreviations, complete words for others.

It is not worth taking a chance on taking sulfa again, next time could be fatal.

 
Old 03-11-2007, 10:02 AM   #6
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Hi Linda,
Thanks for replying. The symptoms aren't sudden and brief. This has gone on for a few weeks, getting better then worse at various points. Right now, I'm okay, but I've taken a couple of days off. Although, last night, I was too tired to move. I'm an athlete, and have been a distance runner for 13 years. To get out of breath climbing stairs... not normal.

I've got a mild case of asthma, and have been diagnosed with anemia a couple of times in the past. I'm not a vegetarian, and I do take vitamins, including a basic iron supplement. (The company I work for makes SlowFE, amongst many other things. Good iron supplement.)

As for getting health care on a sliding scale... I live in the Boston area. The cost of living is sky-high. I make enough to keep a roof over my head (small basement apartment is all I can afford), but by national standards, I make good money. If I lived ANYWHERE else, I'd have more than enough money to pay for basic medical care out of pocket. My earnings are significantly above the national poverty level. However, living where I live, I don't have money to spare. And moving isn't an option - I moved into the city because I couldn't find a decent job anywhere else (I'm a biologist). I'm actually the manager of a major cancer research lab, overseeing the labs for 120 research scientists. Sadly, I work as a contractor, and they don't see fit to give me health insurance. Lovely, huh?

So, anyway, I make too much money to qualify for free or sliding-scale health care, but not enough to be able to afford it on my own. Gotta love how I'm just sliding through the cracks, yes? I'm feeling the crunch more than ever right now, especially as I've been trying to get ANY clinic, hospital, or women's health service to give me a free or reduced-rate mammogram, as I have a golf-ball sized lump in my left breast, but I don't qualify for any of their programs. And even before I can walk into a hospital and try to pay for a mammogram ($300) out of pocket, I need to get a referral, and that appointment will cost at least $200 out of pocket first. I'm too young, and not quite poor enough. Nobody will give me any "discount" on medical services. And when I *briefly* had this pathetic insurance plan, I tried to take care of certain things, and the doctor ordered a bunch of tests that proved useless, and maxed out my insurance in three visits. No answers, no solutions. Not even a new prescription for an inhaler for my asthma (which has since run out, and I'm praying that I don't have an attack). I'm still dealing with the bills for those tests.

Anyway... lately, over the past few weeks or so, I've just been so exhausted, weak, occasionally dizzy or light-headed, with general aches through my abdomen with the occasional sharp pains, and so on. It gets better sometimes, then worse. It just reminded me of what happened after I took that dose of sulfa antibiotic, so I decided to start "hunting" there. I'll keep in contact, but right now, I can barely afford to take care of the most pressing issue (breast lump), so everything else will have to wait.

Misty, thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only person to have that type of reaction to sulfa. Did your doctor give you any other information about your reaction? Oh, and on that list of yours, I'm also allergic to codeine and latex. Interesting.

 
Old 03-11-2007, 02:38 PM   #7
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

I did not go to the doctor at the time of reaction, I stopped taking the sulfa and just weathered it out (I knew what was causing the illness and knew it had to flush out of my body by drinking plenty of water.) It was my doctor's partner that prescribed the sulfa med for a urinary infection even tho I told him it made me sick in the past, but he insisted, very adamant that was what I had to take. The second time was much worse than the first time. A thrid time might put me 6 feet under.

When I saw my regular doctor later he told me, "Never take sulfa again regardless of what a doctor tells you, flat refuse. There is no reason for a med to be worse than the ailment". This was my ob-gyn doctor who took care of me for 30 years, and delivered all 5 of my children. Too bad there are not more doctors like him.

In regards to latex allergy, I always get the first doctor appt. in the morning before latex gloves are flapped in the breeze to avoid further exposure. I also pull sleeve over arm before the latex band is put on for lab work. I double check the doctors and nurses to make sure they do not have on latex gloves. Do the same when I have surgery, double check everyone before I am put to sleep. I have surgeries in latex free surgical rooms. I always hand each person attending me a sheet of paper with list of allergies in big letters. I also double check what kind of tape they are using on me, area can become purple red in a few minutes. (You can now buy self-sticking bandage roll which does not require tape.) Most tape contains latex in the sticky part.

The last surgery I had was 1-4-2007 for trigger thumb and the nurse tried to tell me my list of allergies should be done a different way. Finally got thru to her that it was very important that everything I had on the list to remain on the list and why. Took a lot of yacking to get her to understand nothing should be left off the list. Being sensitive, allergic, or whatever anyone might call it leaves me vulnerable to a major health hazard. She had to then redo her handwritten list on a form which she left off many things on my list. Grrrrr.....her list would have gotten me into big time trouble.

Since I am allergic to caffeine it is imperative no one give me caffeine-free drinks. Most people, nurses included, think because something says "caffeine-free" that it would be o.k. I am sensitive to even the less than 3% caffeine allowed in caffeine-free drinks.

Thought I would toss the last info out there in case it might be of help to you or others.

 
Old 03-11-2007, 07:13 PM   #8
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

there is a disease called acute intermittent porphyria that has symptoms similar to yours, but they are often more severe. nevertheless, maybe you can look into it. it is very rare though. it is often triggered by different drugs and environmental things. just a thought.

 
Old 03-11-2007, 09:10 PM   #9
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Quote:
Originally Posted by babyluv45 View Post
there is a disease called acute intermittent porphyria that has symptoms similar to yours, but they are often more severe. nevertheless, maybe you can look into it. it is very rare though. it is often triggered by different drugs and environmental things. just a thought.
I've never heard of that before. I just did a search for it, and checked out a few different medical sites. It could, on a VERY long shot, explain some of what I've experienced, but I don't think my symptoms were nearly as severe. Plus, I think I'm missing a couple of key indicators. So, while anything is possible, I don't think this is the right explanation. The only reason it *could* be a possibility is that they say that symptoms become more pronounced with age. I'll put it on the back burner, and hold the term for later reference. In the very least, it's an interesting study! Thanks!

EDIT: To the Moderator: I hit "post" and didn't even stop to check it, because I was on my way out the door. If I'd seen the asterisks, I would have edited it out. However, I didn't think that the name of a search engine would be bleeped out, and I didn't think I had any reason to check. My apologies.

Last edited by Phoenix126; 03-11-2007 at 10:25 PM. Reason: if a word is asterisked, edit it off your post.

 
Old 04-13-2007, 07:54 AM   #10
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Just wanted you to know, I had the same bad reaction to Sulfa drugs. I woke up on morning, was so weak, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't get dressed by myself, ER picked me up, took me to Emergency, they gave me ONE Sulfa pill within on hour I had a reaction, broke out with severe hives. Glad you mentioned that you had been given sulfa years before, I also have sinusitus and asthma, so I'm thinking back to the many durgs I've had over the last 20 years, I'm sure there was a sulfa drug along the way, thats why I had such a terrible reaction this last time. ER never did give me the results as to why I woke up so terrible weak.

 
Old 08-11-2007, 07:18 AM   #11
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Re: Is this a normal sulfa antibiotic allergy? Scary reaction, please HELP?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmtustin View Post
Just wanted you to know, I had the same bad reaction to Sulfa drugs. I woke up on morning, was so weak, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't get dressed by myself, ER picked me up, took me to Emergency, they gave me ONE Sulfa pill within on hour I had a reaction, broke out with severe hives. Glad you mentioned that you had been given sulfa years before, I also have sinusitus and asthma, so I'm thinking back to the many durgs I've had over the last 20 years, I'm sure there was a sulfa drug along the way, thats why I had such a terrible reaction this last time. ER never did give me the results as to why I woke up so terrible weak.
After kidney surgery the Dr. put me on Septrim and Bactrim for any possiblility of infection. I seemed to do fine. Then several years later, another Dr. put me on the same medicine and before I knew it I was breaking out with be red welts on my hands, feet and genitles. Went to a GP and he said I had herpes and to take this cream. I asked how that could be? He did not know. The episode eventually went away...but happened over a 10 year period off and on.....then one night after taking the drug...went to bed and fournd this burning sensation in my hand and feet....I put 2 and 2 together and went to a dermatologist and she confirmed a sulfa reaction. Have not had one since in 20 years. When they ask are you allergic to any meds?....first thing out of my mouth is Sulfa ! Also, check with other family members to see if they have had any reactions.....my sister is also allergic to Sulfa.

 
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