Alcohol Allergy

An allergic reaction is the human body’s immune system taking action to fight off something it wrongly thinks is detrimental to your body. An alcohol allergy is surprisingly rare. For the most part, individuals either have alcohol intolerance (a medical condition whereby their bodies are unable to metabolize alcohol) or a food allergy to one of the food ingredients in the alcoholic drink. For instance, you could be allergic to wheat or grain, yeast, grapes, corn, histamine, sulfates or synthetic colors or flavorings found in the drink you consume but not allergic to alcohol itself.

Allergic To Alcohol Or Just Intolerance

Some individuals think that flushing (when your face turns reddish colored) is a sign of being allergic to alcohol but it is really a manifestation of alcohol intolerance. Signs and symptoms of an alcohol allergy can include abdominal cramping, respiratory distress and extreme skin rashes. Alcohol allergies can induce urticaria (hives) and may aggravate symptoms if you already have hives.

allergy reaction throat ADAM

In extreme situations, alcohol consumption can result in anaphylaxis, a sometimes lethal condition. Signs of anaphylaxis can include skin reactions, accelerated heartbeat, queasiness, vomiting, looseness of the bowels, difficulty inhaling and exhaling, lightheadedness and loss of consciousness. You need to get to an hospital emergency room immediately should you start to encounter these types of signs or symptoms, as anaphylaxis may be life-threatening. An alcohol allergy can also enhance your odds of an anaphylactic reply to various other triggers, such as foodstuff allergens.

Visit a medical professional to be screened for a food or alcohol allergy or alcohol intolerance. Should you be allergic to alcohol or have an intolerance you will need to avoid it all together. This means paying careful attention to food ingredients, given that items like marinades, tomato purees and several prescription drugs may incorporate alcohol. In case you are vulnerable to extreme allergic attacks, your physician will likely provide you with epinephrine to inject yourself with in case you start exhibiting signs and symptoms of the malady. This tends to avoid a deadly reaction. It’s also advisable to decide to wear a medic alert bracelet and also inform family members, friends and colleagues in the event you have a reaction down the road.

UPDATE: A little more detail on alcohol allergies:

allergic reaction general

Genuine alcohol allergies are rare but the repercussions can be extreme. The things many people believe to be an allergic reaction to alcohol is really a response to an irritant in the alcohol.

What is an allergy?

In an allergic reaction to alcohol, the immune system begins fighting compounds that are typically safe (such as dust mites, pollen, or a medication) as if these substances were attacking the body.

This overreaction can cause a rash, scratchy eyes, a runny nose, trouble diarrhea, breathing, and queasiness.

An allergic reaction may not take place the first time you are exposed to an allergy-producing material.

For example:  The first time you eat a nut, you might have only discomfort and redness from the nut. If you eat one again, you might have hives or trouble breathing. This is caused by the response of the immune system.

Common allergens in alcohol include:







histamines (commonly found in red wine).

sulfites (commonly found in white wines).

Persons typically call alcohol intolerance an alcohol allergy—and/or the other way around. (As I have above) Individuals who truly have an allergic reaction to alcohol should abstain from consuming it. I have never heard of, or come across in my studies, a “work around” for this allergy.

What Makes Someone Allergic to Alcohol?

Research into alcohol allergies is sorely lacking. Probably because it is so rare. The research has mostly focused on aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2).  ALDH2 is the enzyme that absorbs alcohol, converting it into acetic acid or vinegar in the liver. Somebody who has a vinegar allergy might have an extreme response after consuming alcohol, mistake the source of the allergic response, and assume it is the alcohol. It is an understandable conclusion.  Persons who suspect they have had a an allergic reaction to alcohol ought to see an allergist.

Symptoms of alcohol allergy:

Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger symptoms in people with true alcohol allergies. These might include stomachache, difficulty breathing, and even a complete respiratory system collapse.

Different ingredients in alcohol drinks cause different reactions so responses can be varied.

A person who has an allergy to histamines may suffer nasal swelling and congestion.

Alcohol with high sulfates may amplify asthmatic manifestations in people with asthma

Alcohol might increase the reaction to food allergies.

A person who has an allergy to sulfites might experience hives or anaphylaxis

Other related signs:



throwing up

nasal congestion consisting of runny or stuffy nose

abdominal pain

heartburn symptoms

rapid heart beat

Rashes or even hives and flushing (red face)

Some individuals might experience face reddening (flushing) when they consume alcohol. This alcohol flush reaction is more common in those of Asian descent, due to genetic difference associated with the foods they eat, particularly rice. Facial flushing is not an allergy, just a side effect of alcohol consumption in some individuals.


The only method to avoid symptoms of an allergic reaction to alcohol is to refrain from using alcohol. People who’ve had an extreme allergic reaction to specific substances should put on a medical alert pendant and ask their doctor if they need to have an emergency epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector with them in case of a severe allergic reaction.

Alcohol allergy is rare. If you experience a allergic reaction you can determine the cause by seeing a allergy specialist. If you have a real alcohol allergy switching from beer to wine or other forms of ethyl alcohol will not help you.  Make sure you know what you are experiencing because this can be fatal.

Authority sites on Alcohol Allergy and Alcohol Intolerance

Mayo Clinic
Allergy UK

Alcohol And Diarrhea
Brain Plasticity and Alcohol Dependence

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