What is Sulfur Allergy? The Difference Between Sulfa, Sulfite, Sulfate, and Sulfur!

a woman blowing her nose to a tissue

What is sulfur allergy? Are you allergic to Sulfa, Sulfite, Sulfate, or Sulfur? Which one causes an allergy? There’s quite a bit of confusion about the differences between these compounds because their names sound similar.

Many people think if they are allergic to sulfa drugs or sulfites and think they need to avoid dietary supplements containing sulfates or sulfur such as glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and organic sulfur.

In this article, I am going to explain the difference between these four substances. Hopefully, it will clear up some confusion.

Without further ado, let’s get started?

Sulfa Drugs (Sulfonamides)

Sulfa drugs were the first antibiotics to treat and prevent bacterial infections in humans.

Sulfa drugs contain a chemical group called sulfonamide, which is not usually allergenic by itself.  However, when a sulfonamide molecule is metabolized in the body, it’s capable of binding to proteins, thus forming a larger molecule that can serve as an allergen.

Sulfa drugs (sulfonamide) do contain sulfur, but the allergic reaction is not sulfur per se, rather it’s the byproduct of sulfonamide metabolism.

what is sulfur allergy - pills

Symptoms of sulfa allergy include:

  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, and throat
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Asthma attack in people with asthma
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention)

If you have signs of an allergic reaction to sulfa drugs, get emergency help immediately.

Sulfites (Sulfur Dioxide)

Sulfites refer to a group of chemicals that include sulfur dioxide and sulfite salts. Sulfites are naturally occurring sulfur molecules in the fermentation process, such as red wines.

what is sulfur allergy - sulfites in red wine

Sulfites are also chemicals used as preservatives to prevent browning and discoloration in foods and beverages during preparation, storage, and distribution. They aren’t used on most fresh foods, but they’re still used in some cooked and processed foods.

Sulfites don’t cause problems for the vast majority of people, but about one in every hundred people is allergic to them. People with asthma have 5% to 10% chance of also being allergic to sulfites.

The combination of asthma and sulfites can be life-threatening because it can lead to anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death.

Sulfites are not to be confused with sulfa drugs. They are entirely different chemicals and have unrelated mechanisms of reaction.

A person allergic to sulfites is no more likely to be allergic to sulfa drugs than any other individual and vice versa.

Symptoms of sulfite allergy include:

  • Hives and itchiness
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Flushing
  • Dizziness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Trouble breathing

If you have signs of an allergic reaction to sulfites, get emergency help immediately.


Sulfates are naturally occurring salt of sulfuric acid. They are found in natural food diet and supplements including vitamin B, biotin, thiamin, glucosamine sulfate, and chondroitin sulfate.

They are also found in our body, for example, as a component of hormone such as insulin. The main function of sulfate is to stabilize protein structures.

Sulfates are very important molecules for human health and do not cause allergic or sensitivity reactions.

Sulfates are also used in a variety of common products, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a strong detergent used for removing oils and grease and is found in many household cleaning products, face and body washes, and shampoos.

what is sulfur allergy - sulfates in shampoos

Many people choose to avoid “sulfates” because they can be overly drying to some hair types and strip the cuticle of its natural oils and cause scalp irritation.

Sulfates are different from sulfites and sulfa drugs, and people who are sensitive to sulfites or sulfa drugs should not be sensitive to sulfates. Sulfate allergy does not exist, but it can act as a chemical irritant.

Elemental Yellow Sulfur

Sulfur actually exists in two forms in nature. One is Yellow Sulfur and the other one is Organic Sulfur or MSM.

Sulfur (also known as sulphur) is a yellow, tasteless, odorless, non-metallic element. In nature, it occurs as a pure element in the form of a yellow crystalline solid or as sulfide and sulfate minerals. Although sulfur is infamous for its rotten egg smell, the odor is actually characteristic of hydrogen sulfide.

what is sulfur allergy

Elemental sulfur is not toxic, but many simple sulfur derivatives are, such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

When sulfur reacts with oxygen, it forms a sulfur oxide. This is a very dangerous substance that can cause damage to the eyes, nose, and lungs. It can also cause coughing, difficulty breathing and damage to the heart and kidney when inhaled.

Exposure to sulfur oxide in high concentration can even result in burns on the skin. Sulfur oxide is also flammable, which when ignited, can trigger an explosion.

Needless to say, these sulfur derivatives are extremely dangerous and poisonous to the body and should not be consumed.

Organic Sulfur or MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

Organic sulfur or MSM is found in the cells of all living organisms and plays a critical role in the oxygenation and detoxification of all cells. It’s one of the basic building blocks used throughout the body to make a variety of biomolecules such as enzymes, collagen, amino acids, hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters, and much more.

Organic sulfur is mainly found in the body as amino acids (such as methionine and cysteine). It is also used in a variety of compounds in the body that help to chelate and remove heavy metals from the body.

Organic sulfur is found in nature in trace quantities. It’s not and can not be extracted from nature. In fact, all organic sulfur is a manufactured product. Click here to learn more about organic sulfur

organic sulfur crystals

When people say that they are allergic to sulfur they mean sulfites or sulfa drugs (sulfonamides), not sulfur or sulfates. The allergy-causing compounds in sulfites and sulfa drugs bear no resemblance structurally or functionally to sulfur and sulfates.

Strictly speaking, the concept of a “sulfur allergy” is really a misconception. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body. Nearly half of all sulfur is concentrated in muscle tissues, skin, and bones.

So it’s virtually impossible to be allergic to sulfur because it has no protein component and you are not able to survive without it. Your body should not experience the same type of allergic reaction as you do when taking sulfa drugs or consuming sulfites in foods.

If you experience reactions to organic sulfur, it needs to be noted that many adverse reactions are probably due to impurities in the product, not to the organic sulfur itself.

But uncomfortable reactions are common with even the purest organic sulfur. As you begin taking organic sulfur, if you experience flu-like symptoms, dizziness, or the onset of diarrhea, don’t worry, these are actually normal and natural detoxification process. These symptoms will get better over time.


I hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of the differences among these substances.

Even though their names sound similar, they have dramatically different properties and effects in the human body.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave your comments below. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you for visiting my site and hope to have you back soon 🙂


38 Comments on “What is Sulfur Allergy? The Difference Between Sulfa, Sulfite, Sulfate, and Sulfur!”

  1. Hello Hong
    There’s a youtube video out there with a doctor that is fully against Organic Sulfur saying that it is dangerous because it surpresses all the symptoms, builds up in the gut, clogs up the lymphatic system (other videos from the same author), and causes an orange ring around light toned irises. This is troubling. The true test is to stop taking Organic Sulfur and see what happens.

    1. Hi Sam, thank you for visiting and for your comment. Do you happen to have the links to the youtube videos? I would love to watch them and learn why he or she is against organic sulfur.

      I am not sure why he or she is against it. I know many people have benefited from this mineral.

      I can tell you from my personally experience that organic sulfur has been nothing but a life changing mineral for me. Without it, I would be on tons of medications and likely to experience many unpleasant side effects today. I am very thankful of this mineral.

      Click here to check out my story. Click here to check out my organic sulfur review.

      Have a great day!

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I have both sulfa drug allergies and a sulfite sensitivity. I have been confused for years about whether or not it was safe for me to try MSM and now I know it is. This is the first article I have found on this subject that was comprehensive, easy to understand, and answered my questions exactly! Thank you! Thank you!

    1. Hi heather, thank you for viewing my article and for your comment. I am happy to hear you found the article helpful and easy to understand. When I first heard of sulfur, I thought sulfur, sulfite, and sulfa drugs were all the same thing. It took me a while to understand the differences. I am glad this article has cleared up the sulfur compounds confusion. Let me know if you have any question, I am happy to help.

      You are welcome for the information and have a great day!

  3. Hi–thank you for this type of information, you have put the difference in a way that makes easy to understand. I have learnt a lot as they are indeed confusing. Your article has made more sense now will refer to others so they can understand the differences-great work keep it up

    1. Hi Kwacha, I am glad you find the information easy to understand. Thank you for sharing this with others. Let me know if you have any question.

      Have a great day!

  4. wow. Thank you. These articles are extremely informative. I have suffered with so many allergies and acne as well. I find myself avoiding almost everything, very frustrating. I also have an allergy to sulfa so it’s good to know the differences. I will be subscribing and looking into these products. Thank you so much!

    1. Hello Melody,

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I am glad to hear that you found my article informative.
      I had suffered from severe acne, rosacea, and many food allergies as well, so I can totally relate to you, I had to avoid pretty much everything to prevent an allergic reaction and it was the most frustrating and depressing thing for me. I had tried many things and nothing has ever worked for me.

      Then I started taking Gold Standard Organic Sulfur when a friend told me about it and now I have been on it for little over 1 ½ year. My problems have greatly improved. Now I am able to consume the foods I was allergic too and no longer suffered the allergic reaction like I used to. My skin also got better as well. But occasionally I still get breakout, but nothing too serious like before. I use this homemade facial spray to keep my complexion clear and to help prevent acne.

      You can check out my personal testimony, gold standard organic sulfur review, and sulfur FAQ for more information. In the sulfur FAQ, I have some more information on the sulfur and sulfa differences.

      Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. I will be writing an avocado food recipe sometime next week. Avocado is loaded with sulfur content. Increasing sulfur naturally is one of the ways to counteract sulfur deficiency, so be sure to check your inbox sometime next week for this food recipe if you are interested.


  5. I started use sulfur after reading your article and found that it is working for me so far. I accustomed to it’s bitter taste. I am wondering for how long people should take it and are there any side effects?
    Thanks much.

    1. Hi Olina,

      Thank you for visiting and for your comment. I am very happy to hear that you took the action and decided to give Gold Standard Organic Sulfur a shot and that it is working for you so far. I know there are thousands of health products out there and you chose Gold Standard organic sulfur. I really appreciate that you put trust in me.

      Organic sulfur is very much like water that is essential for our health. We are supposed to get lots of sulfur from the foods we eat, but because of extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which have significantly interfered with the natural sulfur cycle, and today also all of our foods are depleted of a comprehensive range of vitamins and minerals, including sulfur.
      Our body does not produce sulfur, and it is passed every 12 hours after being ingested, so it is very important that we continually replenish our body for optimal health. Without a constant supply of sulfur we are, in effect, dying each day through cellular degeneration.

      If taken the recommended dose, there are no side effects. Initially there are detox symptoms, but that is normal. Once your body gets used to the product, detox symptoms will go away. You can also check out my sulfur FAQ’s for more information.

      Best Regards,

    1. Hello Albino,
      I am glad that you found the article interesting and informative. Thank you for spreading the words to others. I really appreciate that.

  6. Looking for symptoms on the internet can be cause of a lot of concern. Thanks for crossing sulfur of the list. So much info in this article. Who knew sulfur has such an Impact in our every day lives?

    1. Hello Dan,

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I agree with you, internet is great, but sometimes the information can be too overwhelming and confusing that can possibly lead to greater concerns and anxieties. You are very welcome for the information. I hope I have cleared up some of the confusions about different sulfur compounds.


  7. Thank you for this helpful article. I like to appreciate to Hong for this type of informatic articles. also like to read your reply to every comment, in every reply touching with so many information..
    thank you and keep it up this type of good job.

    1. Hello Rakesh,
      Thank you for the kind words. I am happy that you found the article informative and that you like the comments.

  8. This is a very helpful post to distinguish between all the “sulf”s ! I have written at length about sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a VERY different animal than organic sulfur. I also didn’t know sulfur oxide was so dangerous, is it found in nature somewhere? Some people who are addicted to “sulfites” can’t drink most red wines, unless they’re organic or sulfite-free. I’ve seen allergic reactions to sulfites in person and it’s not pretty.

    1. Hello Penelope,

      Thank you for commenting and I am glad that you found this article helpful.

      Sulfur oxides are compounds of sulfur and oxygen molecules. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the predominant form found in the lower atmosphere. Exposure to sulfur dioxide in the ambient air has been associated with reduced lung function, increased incidence of respiratory symptoms and diseases, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and premature mortality. Children, the elderly, and those already suffering from respiratory ailments, such as asthmatics, are especially at risk.

      I know sodium lauryl sulfate is an ingredient added to many household products, such as detergent, face and body washes and shampoo to help create foams. But it can result in scalp and skin irritation due to natural oil being stripped from skin and hair.

      I am sure witnessing allergic reaction to sulfites in people is not the most pleasant thing in the world. I remember when I worked at the hospital as an ER nurse, I have seen people with asthmatic attack and anaphylactic shock, and it can be quite frightening and an unforgetable experience.

  9. Reading the allergic reaction to sulphur brought back memories when we learned my mom had this allergy and suffered nearly every symptom you mentioned. I hadn’t really thought about how or why the sulphites in wine did not seem to affect her until now. Thanks for going through all of the different types and clarifying for me. I look forward to reading more.

    1. Hello Jackie,

      Thank you for commenting. I am glad that my article helped clarify the sulfur differences.
      It is not known why some adults suddenly develop a food allergy that they used to eat with no problem. Most food allergies start in childhood, but they can develop at anytime. Sometimes a child outgrows a food allergy only to have it reappear in adulthood.

      I used to have allergies to bunch different foods, such as mango, starwberry, and seafoods, to name a few. Every since I started taking gold standard organic sulfur, I don’t experience the allergy symptoms that I used to have.

      It is obvious that the primary way to manage a food allergy is to avoid consuming the food that causes problems. Be sure that your mother carefully check ingredient labels of food products and learn what to avoid.

      Best regards,

  10. Hi Hong.

    i would like to say that I really like your website. The title heading is very emphasized and each seperate heading breaks up each section very equally. The use of bullet point really helps to capture core details too.

    Images are not overused and have the the correct use in different sizes to help the content to be absorbed more easily by having a graphical use.
    The language is also straight forward and helps someone unknowledgable understand the topic.

    1. Hello Jonathan,

      Thank you for stopping by. I am glad that you liked my website and found the article easy to understand.


  11. Hey, Hong! Many cheap solutions may be found to heal a great variety of skin illnesses through the use of chemical elements and its compounds. You are working right showing people that it’s possible to get the cure for allergic problems using sulfur and derivatives with high efficiency and low cost. Such types of treatments still are primarily used, but to the future, many significant changes will allow people to live better with the use of econmic chemical substances without harm and collateral effects. I desire success on your chemical prescriptions.

    1. Hey Karl,
      I hear you. Most of natural remedies are not only inexpensive, but also safe and effective for many health problems. I can personally testify to the benefits of many natural remedies, especially organic sulfur, which has helped me so much with my skin conditions and food allergies.

      When I worked as a registered nurse at the hospital, I had seen so many of my patients suffered from chronic health problems and took multiple medications and were still continued to be sick. Later I learned western medicine only treats symptoms while ignoring underlying causes. I couldn’t continue to work in an environment where I have to push meds everyday to suppress symptoms when knowing that there are other alternatives that are much safer, more effective and affordable for people.

      I love helping people, but definitely didn’t enjoy only treating patients with prescription meds. There are far too many prescription drugs that do more harm to the body than good. And many of them can even weaken one’s immune system and interfere with body’s ability to heal.

      Hopefully, I will succeed in using this website to dissimilate my message to get more people informed and educated about organic sulfur and other natural remedies.

      Thank you


    1. You are very welcome, I am glad that you took the action and bought the sulfur. Should there ever be any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

      Wish you the best!
      Thank you

  12. Wow, I love learning new things, especially about health. I am known in my family as the ‘health doctor’ LOL! My husband is not as healthy as he could be, constantly suffering from skin problems. I give him Milk Thistle which controls most but not completely. Is Sulphur known to heal at skin level too? I know I always experience flushing when I drink wine and I don’t take MSM because of the dull headaches I get from taking it. I now understand why after reading your post. So we should be taking organic sulfur then right?

    1. Hello Madeleine, I appreciate that you took the time to check out my website. I hear you, I am a nurse and my family comes to me for everything.

      Regarding your husband’s skin problem, which is something I can relate to. I used to suffer from severe acne, rosacea and lots of allergies, not anymore. I want to provide you some information on how inflammation can affect the skin.

      Inflammation has been found to be associated with just about every health condition. It is a vital part of the body’s immune response that helps to protect the body, which is actually a good thing. But sometimes it can also be problematic though, over time, you can end up with too much of a good thing. With chronic inflammation, your body is on high alert all the time, which can lead to many health problems.

      I always say skin is the reflection of our internal health. The chronic internal inflammation can take a toll on the skin in a variety of ways, including acne breakouts, rosacea, dermatitis, itchy rash, psoriasis, and other skin problems.

      In a very general sense, organic sulfur helps to reduce inflammatory markers and oxidative stress. It helps to enhance the permeability of cell membranes, which makes it easier for cells to absorb nutrients, and waste products to be eliminated. Without it, your body simply cannot mobilize and release toxins. Sulfur is known as nature’s beauty mineral. It helps to boost collagen level, what is important for the skin. You can also read organic sulfur benefits for more information.

      Sulfur can also be used externally as well. You can dissolve 1-2 tablespoon of organic sulfur in a spray bottle of non-chlorinated and non-fluoridated water. As long as it dissolves in the water, then you haven’t added too much. You can spray it on your skin and on your face regularly for a soft healthy glow! I personally mix it into colliodal silver instead of water, so it’s also antibacterial. Either method works. I will be writting a detailed instruction and making a video on how to do that in few weeks. Make sure you visit my site regularly as I am always updating it with more information. The homemade spray also works on pets. Spraying sulfur water on pets’ skin can help to heal difficult skin problems and repels some insects and fleas.

      The headaches from consuming MSM is normal part of detoxification process, which is due to a sudden availability of oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your body. It will get better over time. Make sure you drink enough water so your body can flush out the toxins. Be sure to check out how to take organic sulfur article for more information.

      If you eat mostly organic foods daily, then you should get enough sulfur in your diet. But if you consume mostly processed and refined foods, you are likely to be sulfur deficient, since processed foods barely have any sulfur content. I personally take Gold Standard Organic Sulfur everyday to increase my sulfur level. I find it easier and more convenience.

      If you have any questions about organic sulfur, be sure to check out sulfur FAQ or you can just leave them in the comment box below or send me an email. My email is hong@organicsulfurforhealth.com, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

      Good luck to you and your husband
      Thank you

  13. Hello Hong,
    What fantastic information that is not commonly available. Your personal testimony gives credence to your use of the pure organic sulfur and the many cures and uses that it can be used for.

    1. Hello Randell, I appreciate that you took the time to read my article. Ever since I started taking organic sulfur, I can’t imagine my life without it. It has truly saved health. I haven’t felt as good as now for years. There are so many benefits associated with taking organic sulfur. I just wish more people know about it.

      Thank you for stopping by. If you have any questions or comments, just leave them in the comment box below or send me an email. My email is hong@organicsulfurforhealth.com, I will get back to you as soon as possible.


  14. Although I’m not so knowledgeable in medicines, it is good to know something. Allergy is an annoying for everyone. Knowing the reason is half problem solved. I never heard of sulfite allergy, now I know what it is and maybe it is a case of my wife’s blood pressure drop. Doctors can not find the cause.
    Thanks for the info.

    1. Hello Andrejs, I appreciate that you took the time to read my article. I didn’t know sulfite allergy was even a thing until I did more research. Sulfites occur naturally or chemically. Most people are not allergic to the natural one. But sulfites are also chemicals used as preservative in some food. It is usually the chemical one that causes allergy in some people. It’s rare, but some people are sensitive to these compounds. Their reaction can range from mild to life-threatening.

      Most western doctors are really good at treating symptoms, but many of them are not good at finding the root cause of diseases. Has your wife ever sought or thought about seeing a natural remedy for her blood pressure issue? I personally know some people that have suffered from many chronic illnesses and were exhausted from tons of medications prescribed to them. They sought alternative treatments and were able to get off their medications and now live much healthier.

      If you have any questions or comments, just leave them in the comment box below or send me an email. My email is hong@organicsulfurforhealth.com, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

      Good luck to you and your wife

  15. This is interesting, Now a days there are a lot of people suffering in different kinds of allergies. I never knew that there are people allergic to sulfites. This would be an open eyes to people that years ago, there were no to much listed allergies that cause serious problems or even worst may lead to death. I think it’s time for people to be careful on the elements or components that they put any products that cause health problems to many people or even those babies inside their mother’s womb they develop allergies due to consumption of products that are harmful to their system.

    1. Hello Ma Luisa, Thank you for checking out my article. I am glad that you find my article interesting. In this day and age, we are seeing diseases that were completely unheard of several decades ago. Now they have become so prevalent. Today, many children are a lot less well than their parents.

      It is disturbing that there are thousands of food additives added to our foods that are banned in other countries due to the health concerns and are perfectly legal in this country. I agree with you people have to be careful when choosing a product. Just because something is approved by the government does not always mean they are safe to consume or use. As a consumer, we need to do our research before buying anythhhing that we put in or on our body.

      Sulfites occur naturally or chemically. Most people are not allergic to the natural one. But sulfites are also chemicals used as preservative in some food. It is usually the chemical one that causes allergy in some people. It’s rare, but some people are sensitive to these compounds. Their reaction can range from mild to life-threatening.

      If you have any questions or comments, just leave them in the comment box below or send me an email. My email is hong@organicsulfurforhealth.com, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

      Thank you


  16. Hey, Hong!
    Extremely interesting your article about sulfur and its derivatives. It’s a very instructive way to describe the features of this chemical element. I congratulate you by your lucid explanation involving the medical use of sulfur including valuable FAQ questions related to the theme.

    1. Hi Karl!
      I appreciate that you took the time to check out my article. I am glad you found my article interesting. There is so much confusions out there about these sulfur compounds. I thought I write an article to help clear up some of the confusions. I think providing a detail explanation is important to get people to really understand the message.
      Thank you

  17. Let me understand the whole point here. sulfur itself is not toxic to your body, just like any other elements for example oxygen. It’s the sulfur derivatives that are toxic, much like oxygen derivative like carbon monoxide. Interesting. How do I guarantee that the sulfur that I purchase is 100 percent pure.

    1. Hello there Zach. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Sulfur exists in two forms in nature. Yellow elemental sulfur and organic sulfur are both produced by volcanic activity, the difference between them is elemental sulfur forms in the atmosphere whereas organic sulfur forms in the sea water.

      Yes you are right that elemental sulfur is not toxic by itself, but many simple sulfur derivatives are, such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Organic sulfur is not toxic, it is bioavailable form of sulfur, meaning it can be absorbed and utilized in the body for healing and repairing. It is actually needed for many functions in the body and to maintain optimal health.

      Elemental sulfur is not to be confused with Organic sulfur. I have written an article that explains such difference.

      I have put together frequently asked questions about organic sulfur, you can check it out here for more information. It provides you a very detail guide to buying organic sulfur products.

      If you have any more questions, just leave them in the comment box below or send me an email. My email is hong@organicsulfurforhealth.com, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

      good luck to you ?


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