Alcohol allergy refers to allergy like symptoms occurring due to ingestion of alcohol. This can happen to any specific type of alcohol or a certain type of wine. True alcohol allergy is very rare, but few cases have been recorded such as skin rash after even a small consumption of alcohol.
A person with alcohol allergy can trigger allergic symptoms if he consumes even 1 ml of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to 10 ml of wine or a mouthful of beer. Some common allergic symptoms due to alcohol are severe rashes, breathing difficulty, stomach cramp and sometimes even fainting.
Alcohol allergy is actually the reactions to the allergens of the alcohol or the food on which the drink is based on. For example, grapes for wine, grains for whisky, barley, hops, yeast, rye, wheat, histamines found in red wines and sulfites found in white wine are common substances to which the body may not be able to deal with or may lack in producing enzymes that can digest them. This is when an allergy or the unusual symptoms may arise. They may be wheeziness, headaches or skin flushes.
Alcohol can also increase the chances of having allergies due to some food. Alcohol can trigger asthma to a patient who has asthma condition. Other problems such as urticaria, rhinitis is also some allergic symptoms triggered by alcohol.
Red wine seems to cause most of the problems followed by whisky, beer and other wines. The reactions that cause allergic problems are not the alcohol itself, but the chemicals that govern the taste, aroma and flavor. It is the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) that digests alcohol, converting it into vinegar or acetic acid. People who are allergic to vinegar are likely to develop allergy after consumption of alcohol. Research studies also suggest that bacteria and yeast present in alcohol produce histamines causing severe symptoms such as itchy eyes and stuffy nose.
Alcohol Flush Reaction:
Some people may experience reddening of face, cheeks and chin after drinking of alcohol. This is called alcohol flush reaction. This is not an allergy, but just a side effect of alcohol drinking, which happens mostly to people with fair complexion or Asian descent. This happens due to gene change reaction called polymorphism. Reddening of the face also happens to people due to deficiency of ALDH2, red and blotchy skin after drinking of alcohol.
The one and only way to avoid alcohol allergy is to cut off alcohol consumption completely. Not everyone is allergic to alcohol, therefore for those who have true alcohol allergy should completely avoid drinking alcohol because even the smallest amount of alcohol entering the bloodstream will trigger allergy. It is advised to switch to a different kind of drink that are non-alcoholic or do not contain allergens. Taking antihistamines may reduce some symptoms of itching, and hives in minor alcohol allergies. But overall, antihistamines won’t be effective in treating a more serious reaction. If you are allergic to certain food you should consult a doctor and carry an auto injector for sudden allergic attack.
If you do drink alcohol and are looking to find ways to cutting down on drinking, then you may want to check out some of our quitting alcohol tips here!
Here are a few studies that indicate that alcohol allergy is prevalent due to the allergens. A study was conducted to find out if alcohol caused nasal allergic symptoms and the association of other respiratory diseases. 11933 adult subjects were questioned sending posts to each. 9316 subjects replied to the questions and it was found that two-third of the subjects who suffered from nasal allergy were women. They confirmed that red and white wine were the ones that triggered a nasal allergy. The symptoms that these subjects said were: nasal blockage, sneezing and nasal discharge followed by breathing problems after consumption of alcohol. Alcohol induced nasal symptoms (ANS) are more common in women than in men. ANS seems to have a close association with asthma, chronic bronchitis and allergic rhinitis.
Another study was conducted to ensure than alcohol was associated with allergic rhinitis (AR). 5870 Danish women between the age of 20 to 29 were studied. None had seasonal or perennial AR at the beginning. After a mean follow up period of 7-8 years they started developing AR symptoms. 831 women developed seasonal AR and 523 developed perennial AR. Alcohol has close association with perennial AR but had no association with seasonal AR. It was concluded that women who drank 14 drinks every week were at more risk of AR than those who drank 1 drink/week.
Both these studies suggest that the main allergic reactions linked to alcohol consumption are related to the respiratory system, especially the nasal area. Also, women are more likely to have alcohol allergy problems than men, so women shouldn’t get surprised if they are experiencing an allergic reaction to alcohol more than their male counterparts. But on the whole, any person suffering from allergies after consuming alcohol may want to consider taking alcohol-free drinks, or opt for more lighter drinking options.
Apart from allergies, drinking excessive alcohol can affect your body’s internal organs in a number of different ways. Learn more here!
Alcohol-induced upper airway symptoms – Respiratory Medicine Journal – 2005 – by Nihlen U, Greiff LJ, Nyberg P, Persson CG, Andersson M.
Alcohol consumption and the risk – Clinical & Experimental Allergy Journal – 2008 – by Bendtsen P1, Grønbaek M, Kjaer SK, Munk C, Linneberg A, Tolstrup JS.
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