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How To Tell If You Have An Allergy To Alcohol

Published on August 6, 2021
Alcohol Allergy & Intolerance | How To Tell If You Are Allergic To Alcohol

You can tell if you have an alcohol allergy if you experience severe side effects after drinking alcohol. 

Some experts draw a line between alcohol allergies and alcohol intolerance. Others suggest that alcohol allergy and intolerance are the same, and these reactions range from mild to severe.

Alcohol allergies are relatively rare cases because the body naturally processes and breaks down small amounts of alcohol most of the time. An allergic reaction may also be caused by other ingredients in alcohol, such as wheat or gluten.

Allergic reactions often need medical attention. Knowing if you are allergic to alcohol or the ingredients in alcohol can save you a trip to the emergency room, or save your life in rare cases.

Symptoms Of A True Alcohol Allergy

Anaphylaxis is a true allergic reaction to alcohol use. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • skin rash
  • itchy skin
  • difficulty breathing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • shock

People who have a true alcohol allergy may want to avoid alcohol completely. A severe allergic reaction to alcohol can be life-threatening, especially if the person was not aware they had an allergy.

An EpiPen can be used in emergencies to treat severe allergic reactions to alcohol. EpiPens inject epinephrine into the body, which raises blood pressure and stimulates the heart. These effects can reverse the damage caused by an allergic reaction.

How To Check For An Alcohol Allergy Without Drinking

If you only find out about your alcohol allergy after you drink, it may already be too late to get help. Other methods can help you find out if you have an allergy to alcohol without putting yourself in danger.

A blood test can check how your immune system responds to alcohol consumption. Prick tests and other skin tests can check for allergic reactions on the skin, such as rashes.

Causes Of An Alcohol Allergy

Alcohol intolerance is caused by a buildup of acetaldehyde, which happens if the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) cannot break down ethanol properly. This inability to process alcohol is a genetic condition.

Alcohol intolerance is common in people of East Asian descent. Some people may develop an increased sensitivity to alcohol as they get older, due to a number of reasons.

The risk factors behind alcohol allergies and intolerance may need further research.

Allergens In Alcoholic Beverages

If you have an allergic reaction to an alcoholic beverage, this does not automatically mean you have an alcohol allergy. It is more likely that one of the ingredients, additives, or preservatives in the alcoholic drink triggered the reaction.

Depending on your intolerance or allergy, allergens can cause hives, runny nose, stuffy nose, nasal congestion, low blood pressure, and stomach cramps. Common allergens in alcoholic drinks include:

  • gluten
  • wheat
  • seafood proteins
  • acetic acid
  • histamines
  • sulfites

If you know you have an allergy to one of these substances, you can avoid the drink it is in to avoid a reaction. If you have histamine intolerance, you may want to avoid red wine. If you have a sensitivity to sulfites, you may want to avoid white wine, and so on.

Alcohol Consumption, Treatment, & You

Alcohol may be harmful even if you do not have an allergy.

In the short term, alcohol use is linked to alcohol poisoning, hangovers, and drunk driving accidents. In the long term, alcohol use is linked to alcohol addiction and dependence. Unhealthy drinking patterns may need treatment to fix.

To find out if treatment for alcohol use is right for you, talk to your healthcare provider or contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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