What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

What Is An Alcohol Allergy?

An alcohol allergy is a toxic reaction to alcohol, or ethanol more specifically. Allergies to alcohol are fairly unusual but can be fatally serious. The effects of alcohol on the body, as a central nervous system depressant, are hardly beneficial. In addition to physical and mental impairment, flushed skin, nausea, and headaches are typical bodily reactions to alcohol consumption. These symptoms lead numerous to misdiagnose themselves with an alcohol allergy – instead of an intolerance to ingredients within alcohol.


Yeast Allergies

The type of yeast used to ferment numerous alcoholic beverages is a one-celled fungus commonly known as brewer's yeast.

The scientific name is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and it's the same yeast that is used to make bread rise. Allergies toSaccharomyces cerevisiae have been well-documented in medical literature and are most likely to happen in people who own mold allergies.

To date, there has been extremely little research done on yeast allergies and distilled spirits. If you are allergic to yeast and would love to make these beverages part of your diet, you should discuss further allergy testing with your allergist.

It's significant to note that brewer's yeast isn't the same organism as Candida albicans

If you are concerned about consuming gluten-based alcohol, you can attempt a potato-based or grape-based vodka or a gluten-free whiskey made from sorghum (a gluten-free grain).

Antihistamines love Allegra (fexofenadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) may assist alleviate histamine intolerance symptoms.

However, the best treatment is the avoidance of histamine in the foods we consume, including alcohol.

If your allergist has advised you that you are at risk of anaphylaxis due to a sulfite allergy, you will need to avoid wine. You would also need to carry an EpiPen to self-inject yourself with epinephrine (adrenaline) if the event of an emergency.

Brewer's yeast is used in every fermented alcoholic beverages—beer, wine, hard cider, sake, kvass, and other similar beverages—so individuals with yeast allergies should avoid these.

The same may not be true for distilled liquor.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Many people consume alcohol every day, although a surprising number of individuals in the US consume too much. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 2, alcohol poisoning deaths per year, which is around six per day. Because not numerous people understand the limits of alcohol tolerance in the body, alcohol poisoning can happen rapidly, without much warning.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person consumes too much alcohol, which floods the bloodstream and begins to affect areas of the brain that control vital physical functions love breathing, heart rate, and temperature.

Depressed or uneven breathing, cool body temperature, and seizures are every potential symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

While alcohol poisoning can happen if a person accidentally consumes ethanol through a household product or other form, for the most part, alcohol poisoning happens when a person drinks too numerous alcoholic beverages in too short a time. The liver can process one serving of alcohol per hour, with one serving being:

  1. 12 ounces of beer
  2. 8 ounces of malt liquor
  3. 5 ounces of wine
  4. ounces of distilled spirits, love whiskey, tequila, gin, rum, or vodka

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a major cause of alcohol poisoning and related death in the US.

The definition of binge drinking is four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women, and five or more drinks in the same time period for men. Although binge drinking is primarily associated with college students, the CDC found that the demographic group who suffered from alcohol poisoning most often was middle-aged adults. People between the ages of 35 and 64 suffered from alcohol poisoning more often than young adults. This could be in part due to changes in body chemistry as people age, the number of prescription medications that could interact with alcohol, and also changes in drug preferences in the two demographics.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

White, middle-aged men were the most likely to die from alcohol poisoning, compared to other groups.

Statistically, 90 percent of binge drinkers who experienced alcohol poisoning were not dependent on alcohol.

What is EtOH?

EtOH (ethyl alcohol), or more commonly known as ethanol, is an intoxicating agent produced by sugar fermentation and distillation and is found in most common alcoholic beverages. Ethanol is a byproduct of fermentation, generally from grain; common ingredient that causes intoxication in alcoholic drinks.

Rubbing alcohol, is sometimes substituted for ethanol due to its availability, can be found in most grocery stories and pharmacies and low cost.

Rubbing alcohol typically contains about 70% isopropanol and 30% water that is a clear liquid commonly found in cosmetics, aftershave, lotions, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, antifreezes, solvents, inks, and pharmaceuticals.

How much alcohol can kill you?

Alcohol can be the cause of deaths from intoxication, poising, and increase health conditions that are brought on our made worse due to drinking alcohol. In , the CDC published the National Vital Statistics Reports (NVSS) that states alcohol poisoning was the cause of 75, deaths in America, and alcohol poisoning was also the cause for 31% of injuries that lead to deaths.

Knowing how much alcohol is in your drink can assist you calculate when you’ve had much or a dangerous quantity of alcohol.

Other factors love your age, gender, and medications or other substance you are taking can influence the quantity of alcohol is too much for you.


Sulfite Allergies

A group of sulfur-containing compounds known as sulfites occurs naturally in wine and beer, and they assist inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in those beverages. In addition, vintners sometimes add more sulfites to wines because they act as preservatives. However, in susceptible individuals, sulfites can trigger asthma attacks or a serious, all-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

For most sulfite-sensitive people, extremely low amounts of sulfites do not trigger an asthma attack, but as amounts go up, so do the chances of experiencing a reaction.

U.S. labeling laws require any food with sulfite concentrations greater than 10 parts per million (ppm) to be listed on the label using the term "contains sulfites."

There is no such thing as a truly sulfite-free wine.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

While organic wines are not allowed by law to include additional sulfites, some do include enough natural sulfites to be problematic for some asthmatic individuals.


Histamine Intolerance

Many foods, including aged cheese and red wine, are high in histamine. This is the same chemical involved in a number of allergic reactions in the body. An allergic reaction to high-histamine foods actually could indicate a possible histamine intolerance.

Your body has two enzymes that are supposed to break below histamine, but sometimes these enzymes don't work as well as they should. When this occurs, it can cause a variety of histamine intolerance symptoms, including the so-called "red wine headache." There also is some evidence of histamine being associated with migraines. While red wine is especially high in histamines, every alcoholic beverages own high levels of histamine.

Other histamine-rich foods to avoid include cured meats, spinach, tomatoes, and fermented foods love kefir.


Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten, the protein that triggers celiac disease reactions, is found in three grains: wheat, barley, and rye. Malted barley is used to make beer and some other bottled drinks.

Some beer also contains wheat (either in addition to or instead of barley).

Therefore, if you own celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you'll need to steer clear of conventional beer. If you own a wheat allergy, you can drink beer that's made with barley but not wheat.

It gets more complicated when it comes to alcoholic beverages that are made with gluten grains but distilled. Common distilled beverages that are sometimes made from wheat, rye, and barley include gin, vodka, and whiskey (including bourbon).

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) considers distilled spirits safe for people with celiac disease.

According to celiac disease dietary guidelines, unless flavorings are added after the distillation process, distilled alcoholic beverages are gluten-free.

However, this is a controversial topic, since numerous people with celiac or gluten sensitivity do report reactions to alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains. Meanwhile, little research has been done on the effects of distilled spirits made from wheat on people with wheat allergy, but the European Food Safety Authority considers them safe.

Since the gluten-free commercial market has grown so much, numerous manufacturers make alcoholic beverages that are labeled as gluten-free.

For example, there are a number of beers made entirely from gluten-free ingredients.

Common alcoholic beverages that are naturally gluten-free include wine and most brandies. Do read brandy labels carefully, though, since some flavored brandies include sweeteners and additives that may contain gluten.

Most liqueurs and some wine coolers are gluten-free as well. With any of these, it's wise to check labels or manufacturer websites since there are exceptions and some do include possible gluten-containing additives.


What Causes an Alcohol Allergy?

People with an alcohol allergy experience a reaction after as little as 1 milliliter of pure alcohol or a mouthful of wine or beer (about 10 milliliters).

Why some people experience allergic reactions to alcohol – when little amounts are already produced by the body naturally – is yet unknown to researchers.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

However, in some cases, severe reactions to alcohol are mistaken for allergies when the culprit is Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.

Other foods that may cause an alcohol allergy are:

  1. Tomato puree
  2. Overripe fruit that has fermented
  3. Cough syrup
  4. Food marinades
  5. Mouthwash

Doctors are capable to diagnose an allergy based on the production of antibodies. Antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) cause an allergic reaction in the body accompanied by common allergic reaction symptoms.

Also, skin and blood tests are capable to measure immune system responses to certain substances.

What Are the Symptoms of an Alcohol Allergy?

The symptoms of an alcohol allergy include:

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Stomach pain or cramps
  3. Collapse
  4. Rash
  5. Anaphylaxis (including rapid, feeble pulse, and nausea)

Ingredients in Alcohol that May Cause a Reaction

To determine if an ingredient in alcohol is the cause of sickness, always check the label.

However, beware that some ingredients may not be listed.

Type of Allergy Ingredients and Types of Alcohols Affected
Gluten Barley, wheat, hops, and rye are common ingredients in beer, vodka, whiskey, gin, and bourbon.
Histamines Red wine is high in histamines, and yeast in some alcohols can produce them.
Grapes Though rare, some grape proteins can cause a reaction after drinking wine, champagne, Armagnac, cognac, vermouth, port, pre-mixed martinis, wine coolers, and some premium vodkas.
Fining agents Used to remove little particles from wine.

These may include egg, milk, or fish proteins.

Sodium metabisulfite Known as additives and These own been used as preservatives in beer and wine since the Roman era. They produce asthmatic reactions in about 10% of those with asthma.
Tree nuts Some bourbons and whiskeys are fermented in oak (or other tree) barrels, which can produce a reaction. Numerous distillates and extracts also contain nuts.

Alcohol Allergy vs.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

Alcohol Intolerance

The primary difference between an alcohol allergy and an alcohol intolerance is the reaction each produces. Alcohol allergies are caused by the immune system and intolerance is a reaction from the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of an allergy to alcohol

Generally, an alcohol intolerance is a reaction to one of the ingredients in alcohol and not necessarily the ethanol itself.

Symptoms of alcohol intolerance include:

  1. Increased heart rate
  2. Runny or stuffy nose
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Headaches
  6. Red, flushed face
  7. Hives
  8. Low blood pressure
  9. Aggravation of asthma

People of Asian descent are more likely to experience the symptoms of alcohol intolerance due to a genetic variant resulting from the domestication of rice in southern China centuries ago.

An enzyme known as aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) is responsible for turning ethanol into acetic acid (a primary compound in vinegar) within the liver. Those of Asian ancestry may own the less-active variant of ALDH2, making it more hard for them to properly digest alcohol. ALDH2 Deficiency, as it is known, is a common cause of alcohol intolerance.

Is There Treatment for an Alcohol Allergy?

Just as there are no true cures for pollen or food allergies, there is no cure for an alcohol allergy.

In fact, treatment for an alcohol allergy will focus primarily on any present symptoms (i.e. alleviating rashes with a topical cream). Beyond that, an individual must avoid drinking completely to prevent suffering the symptoms of an allergic reaction and possible death.

Finding Treatment

Just as treatment for an alcohol allergy requires entire abstinence, recovery from an alcohol use disorder calls for the same. Don’t be afraid to enquire for assist. Talk with a treatment specialist today to start your road to recovery.

  1. Author — Final Edited: July 24,

    Destiny Bezrutczyk

    Fate Bezrutczyk is a Digital Content Author from west Iowa.

    She earned a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature from Texas Tech University. After working as a freelance script and blog author, she began writing content for tech startups. Maintaining a passion for words, she took on a variety of projects where her writing could assist people (especially those battling mental health and substance use disorders). Today, she enjoys science fiction, trivia, and the beach.

  2. Medical Reviewer — Final Reviewed: May 20,
    David Hampton

    ✓All of the information on this sheet has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

    Learn more about David Hampton

  3. Sources

    Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.

    (). Alcohol allergy. Retrieved on September 12, at

    Healthline. (). Alcohol Allergies. Retrieved on September 12, at

    Huffington Post. (). Tired of Morning Hangovers? You Could Be Allergic to Alcohol. Retrieved on September 12, at

    Mayo Clinic. (). Alcohol Intolerance. Retrieved on September 12, at

    Web MD. (). Do I Own an Allergy to Alcohol? Retrieved on September 12, at #1

If drinking alcohol, even in little quantities, gives you food allergy symptoms such as flushing, itching, or strange digestive problems as opposed to hangover symptoms, you may own an allergy or intolerance to alcohol.

Although true allergies to ethanol (the scientific name for alcohol) are rare, alcoholic beverages can include a number of diverse ingredients that can cause symptoms of allergy or intolerance. This can be a problem if every you desire to do is grab a drink with friends.

These ingredients in alcoholic beverages may cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to them:

  1. Sulfites
  2. Yeast
  3. Grapes
  4. Histamine
  5. Gluten in wheat, barley, and rye
  6. Corn

There's some excellent news, though: While some of these allergies may require you to quit drinking entirely, there are workarounds for the others. Here is information on the potentially problematic ingredients found in various alcoholic beverages, and what you can consider substituting for those drinks.


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