Herbs and supplements that should be avoided or used with caution in Sweet’s syndrome

Reposted and updated 29/06/16.

Alternative therapists are recommending or using certain herbs and supplements to treat or cure Sweet’s syndrome, despite the fact that there is no medical evidence that any of these treatments work, and some may not be safe to use.

A list of some herbs and supplements that have been recommended or used by alternative therapists to treat Sweet’s syndrome.

Alfalfa – flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that alfalfa is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition, particularly systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as it may increase the risk of a flare-up (see ‘Additional notes’). Also, be aware of the fact that alfalfa can sometimes cause symptoms that are similar to SLE.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition such as Sweet’s syndrome, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition (see ‘Additional notes’).
  • You have diabetes as it may lower blood sugar levels.
  • You are taking medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight. For example, dapsone, and tetracycline antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline.

DO NOT use if:

  • You have a hormone sensitive condition, e.g. breast cancer or endometriosis, as alfalfa can make these conditions worse.
  • You have had a kidney transplant as it may lead to rejection.
  • You are taking any of these medications: immunosuppressants, e.g. prednisone (see ‘Additional notes), or warfarin, contraceptives, or oestrogens.

Astragalus – flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that astragalus is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition.

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking these medications: immunosuppressants, or lithium.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Chlorella – algae.

There is no evidence to show that chlorella is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use. Read more here.

Echinacea – herbaceous flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that echinacea is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition.
  • You are taking the medication midazolam.
  • You drink caffeinated drinks. Echinacea decreases how quickly caffeine is broken down, and this leads to increased levels in the bloodstream.

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking immunosuppressants .
  • You are taking any of these medications as echinacea can affect how they are broken down: clarithromycin, clozapine, cyclobenzaprine, cyclosporine, diltiazem, fluvoxamine, haloperidol, imipramine, indinavir, lovastatin, mexiletine, oestrogens, olanzapine, pentazocine, propranolol, tacrine, theophylline, triazolam, zileuton, zolmitriptan, and possibly others (check with your doctor).
  • You are prone to allergies, particularly if you have an allergy to ragweed pollen, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Red root – herbaceous flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that red root is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.


  • The appropriate dose of red root would depend on factors such as age, medication, and health conditions, but at this time, there is not enough medical evidence to determine an appropriate range of doses.

When taken by mouth, short-term side-effects include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Drowsiness, or grogginess.

Other short-term problems:

  • Skin contact with the fresh plant may cause a rash.
  • If it gets into your eyes it can cause irritation.

When taken by mouth and in high amounts (see ‘Dosage’), long-term side-effects include:

  • Increased risk of  developing white patches on the inside of the mouth if used as a toothpaste or a mouthwash.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Shock.
  • Coma.

Red root is a debriding agent, i.e. removes skin tissue. DO NOT apply to the skin if:

  • You have Sweet’s syndrome, or any other condition that is associated with pathergy. This may trigger the development of skin lesions or make existing lesions worse.

Red root is an irritant. DO NOT use if:

  • You have any condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract, including an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or an inflamed bowel caused by Sweet’s syndrome.

Also, DO NOT use if:

  • You have glaucoma.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are taking any medications. There is a lack of information relating to how red root may interact with medications, so it may not be safe to use. In fact, some of these interactions may be dangerous.

Zinc (oral) – a mineral.

There is no evidence to show that zinc is of any use in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.


  • Safest zinc dosage is 40mg daily or less.
  • Taking more than 100 mg of supplemental zinc daily or taking supplemental zinc for 10 or more years doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Single doses of 10-30 grams (10,000-30,000 mg) of zinc can be fatal.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have diabetes as zinc may lower blood sugar levels.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding (high doses).

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking tetracycline antibiotics. Zinc prevents them from being absorbed properly.
  • You are taking any of these medications: amiloride, cisplatin, penicillamine, quinolone antibiotics, e.g. ciprofloxacin.

Additional notes.

Why should some of the herbs and supplements listed above be avoided or used with caution in those with autoimmune or autoinflammatory conditions?

Autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions are caused by an overactive and not an underactive immune system – an overactive adaptive immune system in autoimmune conditions and an overactive innate immune system in autoinflammatory conditions. Some herbs and supplements have been proven to ‘boost’ the immune system. This means that they can increase immune system activity or make it more active. In patients with autoimmune conditions, this has the potential to make their overactive immune systems even more overactive, making symptoms worse. Evidence is needed before we know if these same herbs and supplements can negatively affect autoinflammatory conditions such as Sweet’s syndrome, but as yet, no research has been conducted. However, it is important to remember that Sweet’s syndrome can develop secondary to autoimmune conditions, and if this is the case, when the autoimmune condition flares-up the Sweet’s syndrome often does too.

Why should some of the herbs and supplements listed above be avoided if you are taking immunosuppressants?

Immunosuppressants are medications that suppress or ‘dampen down’ the immune system to bring an overactive immune system under control and reduce levels of inflammation in the body. These medications include prednisone, azathioprine, cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus, but there are many others. Herbs and supplements that ‘boost’ the immune system prevent immunosuppressants from doing their job properly. This is because they increase immune system activity while the immunosuppressant is trying to suppress it.


Just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s safe or doesn’t have side-effects. There are plenty of herbs, plants and extracts that have side-effects, can cause allergic reaction, interact with medications, be poisonous, or even prove fatal.

Keep safe!

Further information.

A warning about Polly Heil-Mealey! Sweet’s syndrome cannot be cured with herbs or homeopathic remedies.

Baking soda is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes.

What is the treatment for Sweet’s syndrome?

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

What NOT to say to someone with Sweet’s syndrome!

If  you know someone with Sweet’s syndrome (SS), please don’t say the following things to them. Unfortunately, they are things that people with SS hear all too often, and even though a few of them are well-meant, some are incredibly insulting.

What NOT to say to someone with Sweet’s syndrome!

1. ‘But you don’t look sick’ or ‘Are you faking it?’

The commonest symptom of SS is tender or painful skin lesions, but these are often covered up in some way, e.g. with make-up, by hair or clothing. Also, most of the symptoms of SS cannot be seen, but just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean that someone with SS isn’t very sick or that they’re faking being ill.

2. ‘You should try this new diet or supplement. It can’t hurt to give it a try.’

SS is an autoinflammatory condition caused by errors in the innate system, and there is no special diet or supplement that can correct these errors. Sometimes, a change in diet or certain vitamins and supplements might help to improve overall health, but they are certainly not a replacement for proper medical treatment. Also, some diets and supplements can do more harm than good, and be very costly. For example, restrictive diets can lead to nutritional deficiency and health problems; certain supplements may not be safe to take or interact with medications; special diets and supplements can be something that many people with SS really can’t afford to buy, and their money could be better spent elsewhere.

3. ‘I’m too busy to get ill’ or ‘You need to keep busy and just get on with it!’

NEVER smugly say to someone with SS, ‘I’m too busy to get ill’. Being busy is not a protection against illness, and no matter how busy or in demand you are, illness can still affect you and stop you from doing the things that you want to do at any time. People with SS don’t choose to get ill, and even when they desperately want to just ‘get on with it!’, they can’t. Also, keeping busy isn’t going to make SS go away or lessen its impact, and doing too much can sometimes make symptoms worse.

 4. ‘I wish I had the luxury of being sick so that I could stay at home all day’.

Being sick is not a luxury, and most people with SS would give anything to be well again. They do not enjoy being ill (do you enjoy it?), and can get very frustrated and depressed because they can no longer work or do the things that they once did. In fact, many with long-term SS go through a grieving process where they mourn the loss of the person that they were and the life that they once had.

5. ‘If you learnt to cope better or didn’t get stressed then you wouldn’t be sick’.

As already mentioned, SS is caused by errors in the innate immune system, and at present, there is no evidence to show that it is directly caused by stress. Some people do find that their SS gets worse when they are stressed, but this might happen for a number of different reasons, including their steroid medication being reduced or stopped. However, in others, their condition flares-up when they are not feeling stressed at all. Also, it is ridiculous to expect those with SS to avoid stress completely. Living with SS can be very stressful in itself, and for all of us, stress is part of everyday life.

6. ‘Don’t give in’, ‘Stop complaining’ or ‘Why do you have to be so negative?’

People with SS are not giving in or being negative when they admit to having a bad day or struggling to cope with their condition. They have the right to have a bad day, just the same as anyone else. NO-ONE can be upbeat, positive and optimistic all of the time, and having a moan or rant or even a bit of a cry can sometimes be very healthy. It can help you to release your feelings and reduce emotional stress.

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

Can medication trigger Sweet’s syndrome?

Updated 03/03/17.

Can medication trigger Sweet’s syndrome?

Yes. In up to 5% of cases, Sweet’s syndrome is triggered by medication (Cohen, 2007). This is known as drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome.

How will you know if your Sweet’s syndrome has been triggered by medication?

In at least 95% of patients with Sweet’s syndrome, their condition is not triggered by medication. However, drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome should be considered if:

  • Your Sweet’s syndrome developed not long after a particular medication was started.
  • Your Sweet’s syndrome has continued to persist for many months or years, even after treatment.

What will happen if your doctor thinks you have drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome?

Unfortunately, there is no special test to tell you whether or not your Sweet’s syndrome is being triggered by medication. However, if it is suspected that your Sweet’s syndrome is drug-induced, your doctor will:

  • Stop the medication that is possibly causing your Sweet’s syndrome. Your Sweet’s syndrome should then start to settle down, but you may still need treatment.
  • Re-introduce the medication (rechallenge) to see if your Sweet’s syndrome flares-up again. Sometimes, your doctor will decide that this is not necessary.

Why does medication trigger Sweet’s syndrome in some people?

Drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome is often caused by hypersensitivity reaction, but it can sometimes happen for other reasons too, e.g. a treatment that increases white cell production, or causes hormonal changes. Read more here.

What is hypersensitivity reaction, and is it the same as allergic reaction?

No. Hypersensitivity reaction is not the same as allergic reaction.

Hypersensitivity reaction.

Sweet’s syndrome is caused by errors in the innate immune system (the body’s most primitive, ‘hard-wired’ immune system, and a part of the immune system that doesn’t produce antibodies). Because of these errors, in some people with Sweet’s syndrome, their innate immune system responds to antigens (proteins that a part of your immune system called the adaptive immune system sees as a foreign invader and produces antibodies in response to) in a way that it shouldn’t, i.e. is hypersensitive and over-reacts to the presence of infectious, inflammatory, drug, or tumour cell antigens (Bhat et al, 2015: 257; Kasirye et al, 2011: 135). This means that the presence of antigens associated with certain health conditions and medications can potentially trigger Sweet’s syndrome by causing the innate immune system to activate inflammatory cells, particularly white blood cells called neutrophils (Gosheger et al, 2002: 70). This then leads to the symptoms of Sweet’s syndrome. Read more here.

Allergic reaction.

The most common type of allergy is an IgE-mediated allergy. This is an adverse reaction that the body has to a particular substance that is foreign to the body, e.g. a food, pollen, or pet hair, that does not normally cause harm. This substance is known as an allergen (a type of antigen). Allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes an allergen for a foreign invader such as a bacteria or virus. The adaptive immune system then quickly produces allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to this, in order to fight the allergen off. Chemicals such as histamine are also produced, with the overall immune response causing the symptoms of allergy.

What medications have been reported to have triggered Sweet’s syndrome?

Medications that have been reported to trigger Sweet’s syndrome include:

Analgesics (non-opioids).

  • Paracetamol (triggered a Sweet’s syndrome-like condition) (Culla et al, 2014).


  • Amoxicillin (possibly) (Volpe, 2016).
  • Clindamycin (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
  • Tetracycline.
  • Doxycycline (Ibid).
  • Minocycline (Cohen, 2007).
  • Nitrofurantoin.
  • Norfloxacin.
  • Ofloxacin.
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.
  • Quinupristin/dalfopristin (Ibid).
  • Piperacillin/tazobactam (Cruz- Velasquez et al, 2016).


  • Carbamazepine (Cohen, 2007).
  • Diazepam.


  • Hydralazine (Cohen, 2007).


  • Chloroquine (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).

Anti-manic agents.

  • Lithium (Xenophontos et al, 2016).


  • Bortezomib (Llamas-Velasco et al, 2015).
  • Decitabine (Kasirye et al, 2011: 134).
  • Imatinib mesylate (Cohen, 2007).
  • Ipilimumab (Gormley et al, 2014).
  • Lenalidomide (Cohen, 2007).
  • Obinutuzumab (triggered a Sweet’s syndrome-like condition) (Korman et al, 2016).

Anti-viral drugs.

  • Abacavir (Cohen, 2007).
  • Acyclovir (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
  • Interferon-α.

Colony stimulating factors.

  • Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). This is the most common treatment to trigger Sweet’s syndrome (Cohen, 2007).
  • Granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF).
  • Pegfilgrastim (Ibid).


  • Levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol (Triphasil) (Cohen, 2007).
  • Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (Mirena).


  • Furosemide (Cohen, 2007).


  • Azathioprine (Salem et al, 2015). Sometimes, azathioprine-induced Sweet’s syndrome can be confused with azathioprine hypersensitivity syndrome (AHS) (Aleissa et al, 2017). This is a rare adverse reaction occurring a few days to weeks after azathioprine has been given. AHS can sometimes mimic Sweet’s syndrome, and an azathioprine rechallenge is not advised, as it may lead to a severe adverse reaction or even death.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • Celecoxib (Cohen, 2007; Oh et al, 2016).
  • Rofecoxib (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
  • Diclofenac (Cohen, 2007; Gupta et al, 2015).

Platelet aggregation inhibitors.

  • Ticagrelor (Ikram and Veerappan, 2016).

Proton-pump inhibitors.

  • Esomeprazole (Cohen, 2015).
  • Omeprazole.


  • Clozapine (Cohen, 2007).
  • Amoxapine (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
  • Diazepam.
  • Lormetazepam (Ibid).


  • All-trans retinoic acid (Cohen, 2007; Tam and Ingraffea, 2015).
  • 13-cis-retinoic acid (isotretinoin) (Cohen, 2007).

Sulfa drugs.

  • Sulfasalazine (Romdhane et al, 2016).

Thyroid drugs.

  • Propylthiouracil (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).


  • Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG or tuberculosis) (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016). Two cases. One in 1986, occurring 15 days after vaccination, but the authors of the medical article that reported this did not control the tuberculin (Mantoux) test. One reported in 2002, occurring 10 days after vaccination.
  • Streptococcus pneumonia (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016; Pedrosa et al, 2013). Two cases. One reported in 1990, occurring 4 days after vaccination following a splenectomy. One reported in 2013, and the first with the 13-valent conjugate vaccine.
  • Smallpox (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016). Two cases reported in 1975, occurring 3 days after vaccination.
  • Influenza (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016; Hali et al, 2010, Jovanovic et al, 2005; Tan el al, 2006; Wolf et al. 2009). Four cases. One reported in 2005; in 2006, one case of bullous Sweet’s syndrome following vaccination in a HIV-infected patient; in 2009, neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands occurring 12 hours after vaccination; in 2010, one case of Sweet’s syndrome after H1N1 influenza (swine fluvaccination.

Sweet’s syndrome triggered by vaccination is so rare (only 10 cases reported in medical literature in the past 42 years) that a definite connection has not been established in all cases. Also, as infection is a more common trigger for Sweet’s syndrome than vaccination, you may be more likely to develop Sweet’s syndrome as a result of not having your vaccinations than having them.

If someone tells you that Sweet’s syndrome is triggered by vaccinations because they are toxic or poisonous, or contain toxins or dangerous chemicals, then they either have no understanding of Sweet’s syndrome or vaccinations, are not telling you the truth or are trying to scare you, and will have no evidence to support their claims. Sweet’s syndrome triggered by vaccination occurs because of errors in the innate immune system, and this part of the immune system responding to antigens in the way that it shouldn’t. It is nothing to do with toxins!

Xanthine oxidase inhibitors.

  • Allopurinol (Polimeni et al, 2015).


  • X-ray contrast agents (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).


Aleissa, M., Nicol, P., Godeau, M., Tournier, E., de Bellissen, F., Robic, M., Livideanu, C., Mazereeuw-Hautier, J. and Paul, C. (2017) Azathioprine Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Two Cases of Febrile Neutrophilic Dermatosis Induced by Azathioprine. Case Reports in Dermatology, Jan 19;9(1):6-11 (0nline).

Bhat, Y., Hassan, I., Sajad, P., Akhtar, S. and Sheikh, S. (2015) Sweet’s Syndrome: An Evidence-Based Report. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons – Pakistan, Jul;25(7):525-7 (PubMed).

Carpentier, O., Piette, F. and Delaporte, E. (2002) Sweet’s syndrome after BCG vaccination. Acta Dermato-Venereologica;82(3):221 (PubMed).

Cohen, P. (2015) Proton pump inhibitor-induced Sweet’s syndrome: report of acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis in a woman with recurrent breast cancer. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, April; 5(2):113–119 (online).

Cohen, P. (2007) Sweet’s syndrome – a comprehensive review of an acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis (online).

Cruz-Velásquez, G., Pac Sha, J., Simal Gil, E. and Gazulla, J. (2016). Aseptic meningitis and anti-β2-glycoprotein 1 antibodies in Sweet syndrome. Neurologia (Barcelona, Spain), Jul 21 (0nline). Article in Spanish, use translate.

Culla, T., Amayuelas, R., Diez-Canseco, M., Fernandez-Figueras, M., Giralt, C. and Vazquez, M. (2014) Neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet’s syndrome-like) induced by paracetamol. Clinical and Translational Allergy, Jul; 4(Suppl 3): P83 (online).

Gormley, R., Wanat, K., Elenitsas, R., Giles, J., McGettingan, S., Schucher, L. and Takeshita, J. (2014) Ipilimumab-associated Sweet syndrome in a melanoma patient. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Nov;71(5):e211-3 (online).

Gosheger, G., Hillman, A., Ozaki, T., Buerger, H. and Winklemann, W. (2002) Sweet’s Syndrome Associated With Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis. Acta Orthopædica Belgica, Feb;68(1):68-71 (PubMed).

Gupta, S., Bajpai, M. and Uraiya, D. (2015) Diclofenac-induced sweet’s syndrome. Indian Journal of Dermatology;60:424 (online).

Hali, F., Sbai, M., Benchikhi, H., Ouakadi, A. and Zamiati, S. (2010) [Sweet’s syndrome after H1N1 influenza vaccination]. Annales de Dermatologie et de Venereologie,  Nov;137(11):740-1 (PubMed).

Ikram, S. and Veerappan, V. (2016) Ticagrelor-induced Sweet Syndrome: an unusual dermatologic complication after percutaneous coronary intervention. Cardiovascular Intervention and Therapeutics, May 4th (PubMed).

Jovanovic, M., Poljacki, M., Vujanovic, L. and Duran, V. (2005) Acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet’s syndrome) after influenza vaccination. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Feb;52(2):367-9 (PubMed).

Kasirye, Y., Danhof, R., Epperla, N. and Garcia-Montilla, R. (2011) Sweet’s Syndrome: One Disease, Multiple Faces. Clinical Medicine & Research, Nov;9(3-4):134-136 (online).

Korman, S., Hastings, J. and Byrd, J. (2016) Sweet-Like Eruption Associated With Obinutuzumab Therapy for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. JAMA Dermatology, Nov 23 (online).

Llamas-Velasco, M., Concha-Garcon, M., Fraga, J. and Arageus, M. (2015) Histiocytoid sweet syndrome related to bortezomib: A mimicker of cutaneous infiltration by myeloma. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, May;81:305-6 (online).

Oh, E., Shin, J., Hong, J., Kim, J., Ro, Y. and Ko, J. (2016) Drug-induced bullous Sweet’s syndrome by celecoxib. The Journal of Dermatology, Apr 6 (PubMed).

Pedrosa, A., Morais, P., Nogueira, A., Pardal, J. and Azevedo, F. (2013) Sweet’s syndrome triggered by pneumococcal vaccination. Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology, Sep;32(3):260-1 (PubMed).

Polimeni. G., Cardillo, R., Garaffo, E., Giardina, C., Macrì, R., Sirna, V.,  Guarneri, C. and Arcoraci, V. (2015) Allopurinol-induced Sweet’s syndrome. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, Dec 18th (PubMed).

Romdhane, H., Mokni, S., Fathallah, N., Ghariani, N., Sriha, B. and Salem, B. (2016) Sulfasalazine-induced Sweet’s syndrome. Therapie, Jun;71(3):345-347 (PubMed).

Salem, C., Larif, S., Fathallah, N., Slim, R., Aounallah, A. and Hmouda, J. (2015) A rare case of azathioprine-induced Sweet’s syndrome in a patient with Crohn’s disease. Current Drug Safety, July (PubMed online).

Tam, C. and Ingraffea, A. (2015) Case Letter: Sweet Syndrome Presenting With an Unusual Morphology. Cutis, Aug;96(2):E9-E10 (online).

Tan, A., Tan. H., and Lim, P. (2006) Bullous Sweet’s syndrome following influenza vaccination in a HIV-infected patient. International Journal of Dermatology, Oct;45(10):1254-5 (PubMed). 

Volpe, M. (2016) Sweet Syndrome Associated with Upper Respiratory Infection and Amoxicillin Use. Cureus, Apr; 8(4): e568 (online).

Wolf, R., Barzilai, A. and Davidovici, B. (2009) Neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands after influenza vaccination. International Journal of Dermatology, Jan;48(1):66-8 (PubMed).

Xenophontos, E., Ioannou, A., Constantinides, T. and Papanicolaou. E. (2016) Sweet syndrome on a patient with autoimmune hepatitis on azathioprine and CMV infection. Oxford Medical Case Reports, Feb; (2): 24–27 (online).

Other information.

Cetin, G., Sayarlioglu, H., Erhan, C., Kahraman, H., Ciralik, H. and Sayarlioglu, M. (2014) A case of neutrophilic dermatosis who develop palpable purpura during the use of montelukast. European Journal of Dermatology,  Dec; 1(4): 170–171 (online).

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

10 myths about Sweet’s syndrome

Myth no.1: Sweet’s syndrome is a condition that is caused by eating too much sugar or is something to do with diabetes.

Fact: Sweet’s syndrome or acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis is nothing to do with sugar or diabetes. It is a rare autoinflammatory condition and neutrophilic dermatosis. It is called Sweet’s syndrome because it was a Dr. Robert Sweet who first described the condition in 1964. Read more here.

Myth no.2: Sweet’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition.

Fact: Sweet’s syndrome is an autoinflammatory and not an autoimmune condition. These conditions are similar, but involve different parts of the immune system. Read more here.

Myth no.3: Sweet’s syndrome only affects the skin.

Fact: Skin lesions are usually one of the main symptoms of Sweet’s syndrome. However, Sweet’s syndrome doesn’t just affect the skin, but causes lots of other symptoms too. Sometimes, it can make a person seriously ill, and on rare occasions may be life-threatening. Read more here.

Myth no.4: People with Sweet’s syndrome only have skin problems because of poor hygiene.

Fact: In people with Sweet’s syndrome, the skin lesions are caused by the activation of inflammatory cells, mainly white blood cells called neutrophils. They are not caused by poor hygiene. Read more here.

Myth no.5: Sweet’s syndrome is contagious.

Fact: Sweet’s syndrome is not an infection, so cannot be ‘caught’. See Myth no.1 & 2.

Myth no.6: If people with Sweet’s syndrome spent more time in the sun then their skin problems would go away.

Fact: Even though exposure to sunlight might be beneficial to people with certain conditions affecting the skin, in some people with Sweet’s syndrome, overexposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger the development of new skin lesions. Read more here.

Myth no.7: Skin problems in people with Sweet’s syndrome can be treated with essential oils.

Fact: In some people with Sweet’s syndrome, trying to treat the skin lesions with essential oils could irritate the skin and make things worse. This is because of pathergy, i.e. when skin damage or irritation triggers the development of new lesions. Read more here.

Myth no.8: Sweet’s syndrome is caused by diet or dietary toxins, e.g. gluten or dairy.

Fact: Sweet’s syndrome is not caused by diet or dietary toxins, and cannot be treated or cured with a special diet. It is caused by errors in a part of the immune system called the innate system, and involves factors such as genetic susceptibility, cytokine dysregulation, and hypersensitivity reaction (not the same as allergic reaction). Read more here.

Myth no.9: Boosting the immune system will cure Sweet’s syndrome.

Fact: In people with Sweet’s syndrome, the innate immune system is overactive and not underactive. Boosting the immune system, i.e. increasing immune system activity, will not help, and might even make symptoms worse if the Sweet’s syndrome has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition. Read more here.

Myth no.10: You only have Sweet’s syndrome because you get stressed.

Fact: At present, there is no evidence to prove that Sweet’s syndrome is directly caused by stress. See Myth 1, 2, 4, 8 & 9. Some people find that their Sweet’s syndrome gets worse when they are stressed, but this could be happening for a number of different reasons, including steroid medication being reduced or stopped.

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

June 2nd – Sweet’s Syndrome UK Day & 4th anniversary of Sweet’s Syndrome UK

June 2nd 2016 is Sweet’s Syndrome UK Day & the 4th anniversary of Sweet’s Syndrome UK.

What can you do to help spread awareness?

  1. Like our Facebook page.
  2. Join our HealthUnlocked forum. It’s free!
  3. Follow this blog.
  4. Follow me on twitter @sweetsfiend.
  5. Follow on Google +.
  6. Talk about Sweet’s syndrome: share some posts; comment; blog about your experiences; tag a friend; tweet for Sweet’s.
  7. Share 5 key facts about Sweet’s syndrome.
  8. Make a donation to the Autoinflammatory Alliance. This is a US-based non-profit organization that helps children and adults with autoinflammatory conditions, including Sweet’s syndrome.
  9. Make a donation to Skin Care Cymru. This a Welsh charity that gives a voice to those with skin conditions in Wales.

BEE sweet and buzz for Sweet’s – help us spread the word!

Baking soda is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes

Updated 26/01/17.

In 15-20% of patients with Sweet’s syndrome (SS), their condition develops secondary to some form of blood disorder or cancer, particularly a group of blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Depending on what type of MDS you have, MDS may cause problems such as anaemia (a low number of red blood cells) or more severe problems such as leukaemia (a type of blood cancer).

Is baking soda a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes?

No. Baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, is not a treatment for SS or MDS.

Recently, sodium bicarbonate has been advocated as a treatment for SS and/or MDS, including by Melissa Mendez who is a transformational nutrition coach with a website called The Pure Appeal (United States). She also has SS and MDS, but has no background in health care or science.

This idea that sodium bicarbonate is an effective treatment for SS and/or MDS is a potentially dangerous claim that is not supported by medical research, and if you have SS or/and MDS, you will need proper medical treatment. In some cases, if you do not receive proper medical treatment, this could result in you becoming seriously ill or even losing your life.

A doctor by the name of Tullio Simoncini is treating patients who have MDS and cancer with sodium bicarbonate. If he’s a doctor, doesn’t that mean it works?

No. Dr. Simoncini, who Melissa Mendez is a supporter of, is a former Italian doctor and known fraudster, and his practice is incredibly dangerous. In 2003, he was struck off the medical register for treating cancer patients with sodium bicarbonate instead of chemotherapy. In 2006, he was found guilty of fraud and manslaughter after a patient died as a result of using his treatments.

Unfortunately, Dr. Simoncini is continuing to tell people that MDS and cancer can be cured with sodium bicarbonate, despite the fact that there is no and has never been any medical research to support his claims. This pseudoscientific claim (false or made-up claim that appears to be scientifically based, but is not) is based on the idea that cancer is caused by Candida (fungus) or Candida albicans which causes the common fungal infection ‘thrush’, and that the body develops cancer in an attempt to protect itself from fungal infection. Sodium bicarbonate supposedly gets rid of the Candida and therefore cures the cancer. This is completely untrue. Cancer is not caused by Candida, and sodium bicarbonate isn’t even a treatment for fungal infections, let alone cancer.

Please treat anyone who advocates, promotes, sells or prescribes sodium bicarbonate as a treatment for MDS and leukaemia and other forms of cancer, with extreme caution. Also, remember that it is not a treatment for SS!

Is it true that an acidic diet can cause cancer, or that an alkaline diet can cure cancer or Sweet’s syndrome? Do I need to take baking soda to make my diet or body more alkaline?

On The Pure Appeal website (22/03/16), Melissa Mendez states that:

‘If baking soda can alter the ph of the body (make it more alkaline) to encourage healing, and it was clearly helping one of the rarest skin disorders (implying that it healed her Sweet’s syndrome), what does this mean for MDS?

Baking soda is almost like the magic bullet to jumpstart your body into full on healing mode. Cancers can not grow in an alkaline state. Even malignant tumors are incredibly acidic, so it only makes sense to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want your body to heal.’

The information that Melissa Mendez has posted is inaccurate and makes no biological sense whatsoever. There is no evidence that an acidic diet can cause cancer or SS, or that an alkaline diet can cure cancer or SS or promote healing. The overall pH or potential hydrogen (pH tells us how acidic or alkaline a liquid is) of the body cannot be altered simply by changing your diet or adding things to it, i.e. make it more or less alkaline or acidic by consuming certain foods, substances or drinks. To begin with, your blood is slightly alkaline anyway, and this is tightly regulated by the kidneys which keep the pH within a normal and narrow range. The pH can’t be changed for any significant amount of time by what you consume, and any extra acid or alkali is simply peed out in urine. It is true that cancer cells are unable to live in a very alkaline environment, but neither can any other cells in the body. Therefore, if an alkaline diet did really have the ability to change the pH of your body, then it would probably kill you.

Even though you say that sodium bicarbonate isn’t a treatment for SS or/and MDS, if I want to try it, is it safe to use?

Sodium bicarbonate can be safe to use, and is commonly given as an antacid, i.e. to reduce stomach acid, but is sometimes used to treat other health conditions too. However, it is not always safe to use, particularly when taken in larger doses. This may be because of side-effects, certain health conditions or medications, pregnancy or breastfeeding. If given in high doses, the consequences may be serious or even fatal.

How is sodium bicarbonate given?

Sodium bicarbonate can be given orally (via the mouth), as an intravenous injection (injection into a vein), or as an intravenous infusion (into a vein via a drip). The way in which it is given depends on what kind of condition the sodium bicarbonate is being used to treat.

What are the side-effects of sodium bicarbonate?

Side-effects can depend upon how the sodium bicarbonate is given but may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Bloating.
  • Flatulence.

Less commonly:

  • Swelling of the hands, ankles and feet.
  • Sudden weight gain.


  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle aches and spasms.
  • Mental or mood changes, e.g. confusion, irritability or memory problems.
  • Vomiting.
  • General weakness.
  • Passing significantly more or less urine.
  • Chest pain.
  • Seizures.
  • When taken with lots of calcium (in the diet, medications or supplements), may cause milk-alkali syndrome.

In which health conditions should sodium bicarbonate be avoided or used with caution?

NOT TO BE USED in those with the following health conditions:

  • Certain breathing problems, e.g. pulmonary oedema.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Severe kidney disease.
  • Severe liver disease.
  • High sodium levels.
  • Swollen ankles, legs or feet due to retaining water (peripheral oedema).

To be used with CAUTION in those with:

  • Low calcium levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart problems.
  • Kidney disease.

Also, to be used with caution or avoided in those who are on a low-salt diet, pregnant or breastfeeding.

Which medications can be affected by sodium bicarbonate?

When taken orally in particular, sodium bicarbonate can interact with and should NOT BE USED if you are taking the following medications:

  • Aspirin and other salicylates, e.g. salsalate.
  • Barbiturates, e.g. phenobarbital.
  • Calcium supplements.
  • Corticosteroids (steroids), e.g prednisone.
  • Memantine.
  • Medications with a special coating to protect the stomach (enteric coating).
  • Lithium.
  • Quinidine.
  • Water pills (thiazide diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide).

Reduces the effectiveness of and to be used with CAUTION when taking the following medications:

  • Certain drugs that require stomach acid to work, including ampicillin.
  • Atazanavir.
  • Certain azole antifungals (such as ketoconazole, itraconazole).
  • Iron supplements.
  • Pazopanib.
  • Sucralfate.

Sodium bicarbonate may also interact or reduce the effectiveness of some other medications, or should not be used in patients with health conditions that have not been listed above. Please speak to your doctor before use.

Additional note.

Sweet’s Syndrome UK does not promote the use of alternative or nutritional therapies. This is because there is no medical evidence to show that these therapies are effective, or sometimes even safe to use in those with Sweet’s syndrome. If anyone does have information that proves that alternative or nutritional therapies can be used to treat Sweet’s syndrome, I will be more than happy to read it. However, only peer-reviewed medical articles and case-studies will be accepted as evidence. The following will not be accepted as evidence: anecdotal evidence or personal stories; testimonials; YouTube videos; information on blogs or websites where there are no references or links to peer-reviewed medical articles or case-studies, or where the author is not willing to provide this information; blogs or websites where someone tries to pass off their feelings or instincts, beliefs or opinions as facts or evidence.

Thank you.

Michelle Holder.

Other information.

A warning about Polly Heil-Mealey! Sweet’s syndrome cannot be cured with herbs or homeopathic remedies.

Childs, O. (2014) Don’t Believe the Hype – 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked. Cancer Research UK (online).

Chlorella is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome.

MDS UK Patient Support Group.

Smith, E. (2015) Alternative therapies: what’s the harm? Cancer Research UK (online). 

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK