January 10, 2018

Alcohol Allergy and Alcohol Intolerance: What Is Causing Your Symptoms?

Many of us like to have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer after a long day at work. However, some of us are at risk of developing unwanted symptoms after drinking alcohol. Those may be hives, nausea, or wheezing. This would likely make you wonder whether you have an alcohol allergy. Although these symptoms may actually be caused by alcohol, it’s not necessarily an allergy. In most cases, people have alcohol intolerance.


What Is Alcohol Intolerance?


Allergy to alcohol is a rare condition but quite a lot of people do react to it. Most of such reactions are a result of alcohol intolerance.

Common symptoms of this condition are stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, rash, hives, hot feeling, a flushed face, heartburn, tachycardia, low blood pressure, headaches, stuffy nose, or difficulty breathing. In those who have asthma, the symptoms may be more severe.

If you notice developing some of these symptoms after consuming alcohol, notify your doctor about that. In some people, alcohol intolerance may indicate a serious health problem.

What Allergens Are Associated with Alcohol?


Alcoholic drinks are prepared using various mixtures of grains, fruits, chemicals and preservatives that are normally broken down in your body. If your immune system does not tolerate these substances, you will develop a reaction.

Thus, common allergens associated with alcohol are histamines, gluten, grapes, seafood proteins, egg protein (contained mostly in wine), sulphites, sodium metabisulphite, barley, rye, wheat, yeast, and hops.

Most reactions to alcoholic beverages are caused by red wine. Beer and whiskey that contain the same four allergens (barley, yeast, hops and wheat) may also trigger a reaction in your body.

Are You at Risk?


Reactions to alcoholic beverages, whether they are caused by alcohol intolerance or allergy, are more likely to occur in people of Asian descent, in those with food allergies, asthma or hay fever, or in Hodkin’s lymphoma sufferers.

Besides, alcohol can interact with a range of medications. If you are taking any, ask you doctor whether you can mix it with alcohol.

What Is an Allergy Test?


If you associate your symptoms with alcohol, you can get a medical examination to see if you are right. Your doctor will first ask some questions about the symptoms that you have, and about your family history, since both alcohol allergies and intolerance can be passed down within families. Then, he or she with conduct a physical examination which includes a skin prick test and a blood test.

A skin prick test involves putting a prick on your skin that contains a little bit of the potential trigger. If you are actually allergic to it, a bump will raise in the affected spot.

You can also determine your trigger by quitting all alcoholic drinks for a certain period and then starting again, little by little. You may notice that you develop reactions only to specific beverages, which will help to identify the allergen.

What Is Allergy to Alcohol?


Although it is way less common, some people may also have an alcohol allergy. In this case, the symptoms are more serious: stomach cramps, rashes, difficulty breathing, collapse or even anaphylaxis. If you or someone around you has anaphylaxis, you should immediately call 911.

It is worth mentioning that alcohol is completely contraindicated for people allergic to it. As little as one tablespoon of wine or a mouthful of beer may trigger a life-threatening reaction.

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