It’s possible to be allergic to alcohol, but it’s not very common. Most people who think they have an alcohol allergy actually have an alcohol intolerance (also called acute alcohol sensitivity). If you experience severe symptoms of alcohol allergy or intolerance it is important you limit or abstain from alcohol while you seek a diagnosis from your GP or allergy specialist. Alcohol intolerance is an inherited metabolic disorder that will cause unpleasant sensations and digestive upset. When alcohol is consumed, those who have alcohol intolerance will experience a variety of symptoms that tax their bodies. Combining heavy alcohol use or addiction with alcohol intolerance can result in painful and potentially long-term effects on the body.

  • Symptoms are more likely to be a reaction to the ingredients in a drink, or the alcohol causing other types of allergies to worsen.
  • The amounts of histamine vary between wines, but generally, there is more histamine in red than white wine.
  • Some people can tolerate cocktails easily, but get drunk off just a couple of glasses of wine.
  • Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol.
  • If the allergic reaction is more severe, people may require epinephrine, also known as an EpiPen.

No drug will help you avoid the symptoms of alcohol intolerance or lessen your cancer risk. To manage increased alcohol sensitivity, Stanford researchers recommend abstinence and avoidance of alcohol, symptom-triggering ingredients and antihistamines. Some people take medicines like the antihistamines diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or famotidine (Pepcid) about 30 minutes before drinking alcohol. This may be harmful because it can mask severe symptoms that could be brewing like shortness of breath. Alcohol intolerance is also known as alcohol flushing syndrome, alcohol rash, or aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 deficiency. The condition is often inherited from your parents and common in people of East Asian descent.

Causes and Risk Factors

If they suspect you have a true allergy to alcohol or another ingredient in alcoholic beverages, they will likely conduct allergy testing. The most common type of allergy testing is the skin prick test. During a skin prick test, your doctor will use a lancet to prick or scratch your skin. They will apply a drop of allergen extract to the pricked or scratched area.

  • If a person thinks they have an alcohol allergy, they should eliminate alcohol from their diet and consult with a healthcare professional.
  • They may also discuss possible medications for their reactions, such as antihistamines.
  • Doing so will also give it the best chance of fighting the illness effectively.
  • But it can also develop with regular and continued alcohol use in social drinkers.
  • If you develop symptoms after drinking alcohol, make an appointment with your doctor.

Certain events in a person’s life or lifestyle factors could also trigger an intolerance. Tolerance results from drinking substantial amounts of alcohol over long periods of time. alcohol intolerance can result from a genetic condition where the body cannot break down alcohol to digest it correctly. This condition is usually genetic and is common in people of Asian descent.


An alcohol allergy can occur when a person with an alcohol allergy comes into contact with alcohol, which is also known as ethanol. An alcohol allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to alcohol entering the body. One idea is that our immune system is more resilient when we are young and can handle these foods better in our early years. Another is that an event such as using antibiotics, a period of high stress, or other health-related issues can also trigger an intolerance. A sudden inability to handle alcohol may be of concern for various reasons.

Most people with ALDH2 deficiency will notice some effects from the first time they take a drink, but there’s often no known reason as to why an alcohol intolerance develops. Some people have an intolerance or sensitivity to sulfites. These compounds are often added to beer and wine to limit the growth of yeast and act as a preservative. Common sulfites include potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite.

Alcohol allergies quiz

In this case, individuals may still be able to enjoy some forms of alcohol that don’t contain the specific ingredient they are reacting to. Some people with Hodgkin’s lymphoma experience pain after drinking alcohol. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that can affect your lymphatic system. Many people with Hodgkin’s lymphoma develop enlarged lymph nodes. But in rare cases, they become painful after alcohol consumption.

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Follow your allergy action plan if you have one, which may include using an EpiPen. You may also have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, heart flutters, and a stuffy or runny nose. Ask your doctor for more information about your diagnosis and treatment options. White wine tends to contain higher levels of sulfites than red wine and beer.

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