Allergy To Sulfur


Asked by Charlene

Allergy To Sulfur

Hi, I recently had a suspicious mole removed from my back, located right under my bra strap. The day of the removal, I was asked by 2 different nurses and the Dr(dermatologist) if I was allergic to anything and I told them I was allergic to sulfur. The removal went fine and a couple of stitches were used. I was given a bacitracin/zinc/polymycin/sulfate ointment to put on the spot with a simple band aid over it and to change it twice a day. The 2nd nite, I woke up with severe itching in the area and checked the tube of ointment and sure enough discovered it said "sulfate" on it. I'm assuming that means it contains, sulfur, right? After spending a miserable nite, after my husband woke in the morning, I had him scrub the area good with soap & water and just applied vaseline. It feels somewhat better but bothers me still. I called the dermatologists' office and told them my concern and the nurse told me twice, "don't worry, you're not going to die"! I am a diabetic & don't heal well, and my husband after looking at the site this morn. said it looks a little red and "bubbly" around its" edges. Do you think I'm getting an infection? I hesitatie to call the same Drs. office again and get a "flip" answer. Would like to know what you think. Thanks! Charlene


Hi Charlene,

I'm guessing you have a sulfa allergy, rather than a sulfur allergy, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Sulfa allergy is fairly common and involves a sensitivity to a particular class of antibiotics containing sulfonamides, such as Bactrim, Septra and Pediazole. There are other drugs such as Celebrex that contain similar compounds that may trigger the same sort of allergic reaction.

According to WebMD, however, one should not assume that if you have a sulfa allergy, you will also be allergic to sulfur or anything with sulfites or sulfates, as they are not closely related, despite the similarity in their names.

So, your skin symptoms are probably not an allergic reaction to the ointment you were using. Still, it may be wise to refrain from using it. However, I would also NOT apply Vaseline to your wound. Simply washing it gently each day with warm water and soap should be sufficient. You can probably apply an unscented lotion around the edges, if necessary.

Signs of infection include pain, redness that radiates outward from the wound, greenish yellow pus-like discharge and a fever. If you notice those symptoms, you should definitely call your doctor. In fact, any time you have a concern about your health, you should call. If you can't get satisfaction from your doctor's staff, then you should insist on talking with the doctor directly when she/he is available. That is your right.

To your health,


Answered by Kathi MacNaughton