What is alcohol allergy?
Real alcohol allergy is rare, but the reaction can be severe. What most people think of alcohol allergy is actually alcohol intolerance. Some people are also allergic to other ingredients in alcoholic beverages. For example, potential allergens in alcoholic beverages include:
People usually refer to alcohol intolerance as alcohol allergy and vice versa. People who are truly allergic to alcohol should avoid alcohol altogether.
What are the symptoms of alcohol allergy?
If you are really allergic to alcohol, even a small amount of alcohol can cause symptoms. In some cases, it can even cause allergic reactions. This is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:
- Itchy mouth, eyes, or nose
- Hives, eczema, or itchy skin
- Swelling of the face, throat, or other body parts
- Stuffed nose, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Dizziness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
You should never ignore the symptoms of an allergic reaction. If left untreated, allergic reactions will quickly worsen. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can be fatal.
You may be allergic to alcohol at any time in your life. Sudden symptoms may also be caused by newly developed intolerances. In rare cases, pain after drinking alcohol may indicate that you have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
If you develop symptoms after drinking alcohol, please make an appointment with your doctor.
What is the cause of alcohol allergy?
If you have allergies, your immune system will overreact to exposure to triggers or “allergens.” If you are allergic to alcohol, your immune system sees alcohol as a threat. It responds to alcohol by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies can trigger allergic reactions in your body.
Real alcohol allergy is very rare. Alcohol intolerance is more common.
What is the difference between alcohol allergy and intolerance?
If you are allergic to alcohol, your immune system will overreact to alcohol. If you have alcohol intolerance, your digestive system cannot process alcohol properly. If you are intolerant to histamine or sulfite, you may also react to certain alcoholic beverages. In rare cases, a reaction to alcohol may be a sign of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) is an enzyme used by the body to digest alcohol. It converts alcohol into acetic acid, which is the main component of vinegar in your liver. Some people have mutations in the gene encoding ALDH2. This variation is more common in Asians.
If you have this mutation, it will cause your body to produce less active ALDH2. This will prevent your body from properly digesting alcohol. This condition is called ALDH2 deficiency. This is a common cause of alcohol intolerance.
If you have ALDH2 deficiency, your face may become red and hot when you drink alcohol. You may also experience other symptoms, such as:
According to a study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology in 2010, the genetic changes that led to the deficiency of ALDH2 were related to the domestication of rice in southern China centuries ago.
Histamine is a chemical substance that occurs naturally in your body. It is also found in many foods and beverages, especially fermented products. For example, aged cheese, bacon, sauerkraut, wine and beer tend to have high histamine content.
Normally, your body produces an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO) to break down histamine. If your body cannot produce enough active DAO, you may react to histamine in food and drink.
The symptoms of histamine intolerance are similar to allergic reactions. For example, underlying symptoms include red and itchy skin, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
The histamine content of red wine is often higher than that of white wine or beer.
Some people are intolerant or sensitive to sulfites. These compounds are usually added to beer and wine to limit the growth of yeast and act as a preservative. Common sulfites include potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite. Sulfur dioxide is another closely related chemical substance that can trigger reactions in some people.
Some people have similar allergic reactions to sulfites. If you have asthma, certain types of sulfites may also trigger an asthma attack.
The sulfite content of white wine is often higher than that of red wine and beer.
Some patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma experience pain after drinking alcohol. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Many patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma develop lymph node enlargement. Usually, these lymph nodes are not painful. But in rare cases, they will feel pain after drinking alcohol. The exact cause of this reaction is unknown.
What does beer allergy mean? »
How to diagnose alcohol allergy?
If you develop symptoms after drinking alcohol, please make an appointment with your doctor. Depending on your symptoms, they may refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and treatment. An allergy specialist is a special type of doctor who specializes in allergic diseases.
Your doctor may first ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history, such as:
- Which alcoholic beverages can cause your symptoms?
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you start showing symptoms?
- Do you have any relatives with allergies?
- Do you have other health conditions?
If they suspect that you are truly allergic to alcohol or other ingredients in alcoholic beverages, they may conduct an allergy test. The most common type of allergy test is the skin prick test. During the skin prick test, your doctor will use a lancet to puncture or scratch your skin. They will apply a drop of allergen extract to the punctured or scratched area. Your skin reaction can help them understand if you are allergic.
In some cases, they may use oral provocation tests to diagnose allergies or intolerances. During the process, they will ask you to consume samples of suspected triggers. They will observe any symptoms you experience. They may also have blood tests.
Allergy testing should always be performed in a medical environment. Occasionally, it can cause severe allergic reactions. Access to medical services is very important.
How do you treat alcohol allergy?
If you are really allergic to alcohol, the only way to avoid symptoms is to avoid alcohol altogether. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause serious reactions. Read the ingredient list of food and beverages, ask restaurant staff about menu items, and avoid alcohol-containing products. Some foods contain alcohol as an added ingredient.
If you are allergic to another ingredient contained in certain alcohol products, changing to a different drink may be an option. For example, barley is usually found in beer, not wine. Please seek guidance from your doctor.
If you experience a mild allergic reaction, over-the-counter oral antihistamines may be sufficient for treatment. If you show any signs of a serious reaction, you should receive one or more doses of epinephrine. This medication is also called epinephrine. It can be used with pre-filled syringes called epinephrine auto-injectors (for example, EpiPen). If your doctor prescribes an epinephrine auto-injector, you should take it with you. Use it at the first sign of a severe allergic reaction. Then go to the emergency room closest to you for follow-up care.
If you have a non-allergic intolerance to alcohol, histamine, sulfites, or other ingredients in alcoholic beverages, your doctor may encourage you to limit or avoid certain types of alcohol. In some cases, over-the-counter or prescription drugs may help relieve symptoms.
Ask your doctor for more information about your diagnosis and treatment options.