ZocdocAnswersHow will my fluid retention from congestive heart failure be treated if I am allergic to Hydrochlorothiazide?

Question

How will my fluid retention from congestive heart failure be treated if I am allergic to Hydrochlorothiazide?

I have been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, and was prescribed Hydrochlorothiazide for fluid retention. Within about 20 minutes of taking this diuretic, I started itching severely, my face and tongue started to swell, and I could hardly breathe. After consulting with my pharmacist, he told me that this was a sulfur drug. I have been allergic to antibiotics containing sulfur before, but did not occur to me that sulfur would be in a diuretic. I called my doctor's office, and was told to stop taking it immediately. The itching stopped and swelling went down. I was told that there were other diuretics I could take, but they may not be as effective in getting rid of the fluid. How can my fluid retention be treated if I am allergic to Hydrochlorothiazide?

Answer

Fluid retention associated with congestive heart failure is can be treated with a variety of different medications and it is important to discuss your concern with your cardiologist. In fact, hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is not really one that we typically use for this problem. Most of the time we use a different medication called furosemide or Lasix. This medication is also a sulfa drug, but it is a different type of sulfa drug and people that have a "sulfa" allergy typically are not allergic to Lasix. Lasix is a more powerful diuretic that is more likely to be effective at reducing fluid overload than HCTZ. HCTZ is typically used for high blood pressure. Other diuretics that could be used include bumetanide, torsemide, and etacrynic acid. If you have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, then you should be treated and followed by a cardiologist. He or she will need to evaluate your entire medical regimen, not just for fluid retention. You will also need to be treated with two other types of medication called a beta block and an ACE inhibitor. Both of these medications are able to improve quality of life and prolong life in patients with congestive heart failure. In addition, you have not had one, you need a cardiac catheterization to make sure that coronary artery disease is not contributing to the problem. Please speak with your cardiologist.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.