Sulfadiazine is prescribed to prevent episodes of rheumatic fever.
It is a sulfonamide antibiotic. Tell your doctor before taking the tablets if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a sulfonamide (this includes any reaction to co-trimoxazole or the brand Septrin®).
It is important that you drink plenty of water while you are on sulfadiazine.
|Type of medicine||Sulfonamide antibiotic|
|Used for||Preventing episodes of rheumatic fever|
Sulfadiazine is a type of antibiotic called a sulfonamide. Although sulfonamide antibiotics are rarely prescribed nowadays, sulfadiazine remains a useful medicine to help prevent recurrent episodes of rheumatic fever.
Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease which used to be fairly common amongst children in the UK, but now occurs rarely. It develops following an infection with a type of bacteria called streptococcus, and it can cause serious damage to the heart. There is a risk that further episodes will occur after the first episode, so antibiotics like sulfadiazine are prescribed long-term to help prevent this.
Occasionally sulfadiazine is prescribed for other reasons but these are not covered by the information presented here. If you have been prescribed sulfadiazine tablets for a condition other than rheumatic fever, ask your doctor if you have any questions about your treatment.
Before taking sulfadiazine
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you (or your child) start taking sulfadiazine it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby, or breast-feeding.
- If you have any problems with the way your kidneys work, or any problems with the way your liver works.
- If you have a blood disorder.
- If you have asthma.
- If you have a rare inherited blood disorder called porphyria.
- If you have an enzyme deficiency called G6PD deficiency.
- If you know you have low amounts of the vitamin folic acid.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine. It is particularly important that you tell your doctor if you have ever had a bad reaction to a sulfonamide antibiotic, such as co-trimoxazole (brand name Septrin®).
How to take sulfadiazine
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about sulfadiazine and a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take sulfadiazine tablets exactly as your doctor tells you to. It is usual for adults and older children to take two tablets daily, whereas children weighing less than 30 kilograms will be prescribed one tablet to take each day. The dose will be printed on the label of the pack of tablets to remind you.
- Try to take the tablets at the same time of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take them regularly. You can take the tablets before or after meals.
- Have plenty to drink as you take the tablets (at least half a glassful of water), and drink several large glasses of water throughout the day. This will help to prevent the sulfadiazine from forming crystals in your urine.
- If you forget to take a dose at your usual time, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Your doctor will ask to see you on a regular basis so that your progress can be monitored. Try to keep these appointments as you will need to have regular blood tests.
- It is likely that you will be prescribed sulfadiazine to take for a number of years, so continue to take the tablets regularly until you are told otherwise by your doctor.
- If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking. This is important because sulfadiazine can interfere with some anaesthetics.
- Some people develop thrush (redness and itchiness in the mouth or vagina) after taking antibiotics. If this happens to you, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
- If you are using combined oral hormonal contraception (the 'pill'), additional contraceptive precautions such as condoms are not required with this antibiotic unless you are sick or have diarrhoea. If you need further advice about this, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
- This antibiotic may stop the oral typhoid vaccine from working. If you are having any vaccinations, make sure the person treating you knows that you are taking this medicine.
Can sulfadiazine cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with sulfadiazine. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Common sulfadiazine side-effects||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling or being sick, loss of appetite||Stick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals|
|Diarrhoea||Drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids. If the diarrhoea becomes severe, or contains blood, let your doctor know straightaway|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
Important: if you experience any of the following rare but serious symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately or go to your local accident and emergency department without delay.
- An allergic reaction such as swelling of the mouth, face, tongue or throat with difficulty breathing.
- Severe skin rash with blisters.
- High temperature with a sore throat, mouth ulcers or unusual bruising or bleeding.
- Headache, fever, stiff neck, tiredness, feeling ill and an increased sensitivity to bright light.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store sulfadiazine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 66th Edition (September 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Helen Huins