Allergic reactions to alcohol

Written by alexandra haller
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Allergic reactions to alcohol
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Many people can imbibe alcohol within their limits and under control; however, some people do not have this ability. Alcohol can present numerous problems, including an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can be frightening or surprising at best and paralysing or deadly at worst. Keep in mind that people are not generally allergic to straight alcohol, rather they can be allergic to an ingredient in alcoholic beverages. If you think you know the symptoms that betray a certain allergic reaction, it's always best to consult with a doctor.

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Misconceptions

Most people are not allergic to alcohol itself. Rather, they are allergic to some type of product or process used to create the beverage. For instance, people with coeliac disease are allergic to gluten, which is found in barley and wheat--two common ingredients in beer. Also, people can be allergic to histamines, hence the use of benadryl as an antihistamine. Most healthy people don't have a problem metabolising certain enzymes found in alcoholic beverages but those with histamine intolerance would. You might have heard of the red wine headache. While this can be a result of simply drinking too much wine, it could be a symptom for someone who has sulphite allergies. Sulphites are organic compounds found in lots of alcoholic beverages, but some of them have higher concentrations. It's the higher sulphite concentration that can cause the dreaded red wine headache or asthmatic symptoms.

Allergic reactions to alcohol
Wine glass and grapes

Types

Alcohol allergies have to do with either the components that make up the beverage, the process used in the creation of said beverage, or an inability in someone's body to break down certain chemicals. Those who have reactions to a part of the process could suffer from a yeast allergy or a sulphite allergy. These allergies usually cause the sufferer to develop rashes or hives. Brewer's yeast is a common part of the fermentation process, so if you discover you are allergic to yeast, then you need to seek out other beverages that don't have this as an ingredient. Sulphites are often used as a preservative to keep the beverage from spoiling. You can find wine with few sulphites but it will usually have a short shelf-life. When you have an intolerance for an actual substance composing the make-up of the alcoholic beverage, you could be allergic to grapes or a grain, such as barley, hops, rye or wheat. While these types of allergies are rare, they do exist. People with these types of allergies can safely consume other alcoholic beverages if they are fastidious about checking the ingredients. For instance, if you're allergic to grapes, it might be obvious that you should avoid wine, but you should also avoid cognac, amaretto and champagne, among others. People with these allergies will usually see the reaction manifest itself in the form of stomach problems related to the stomach or the intestines. If a person is missing a certain enzyme, then his body would not be able to process alcohol after he has consumed it. This is what leads to flushing of the face, neck or chest. This is most common in people of Asian descent. The flushing itself is not something to alarm you, but it is a clue that you may be at risk for more serious alcohol problems.

Allergic reactions to alcohol
Spilt wine glass

Prevention/Solution

The most obvious way to prevent any type of allergic reaction related to an alcoholic beverage is to abstain from consuming any alcohol. This would definitely apply to those with coeliac disease, since gluten in any form can be intolerable. However, there are alternative beverages that are not made with gluten, such as potato vodka. It would also apply to those who suffer from histamine allergies. With some allergies, the severity of the reaction is commensurate with the amount of alcohol consumed. People who tend to flush with large amounts of alcohol should only consume small amounts. This also applies to those who suffer from sulphite allergies. Small amounts are usually less harmful.

Allergic reactions to alcohol
No Beer sign

Identification

There are many clues that can indicate you have an allergic reaction to something inside an alcoholic beverage. You might become flushed, have trouble breathing, feel sick to your stomach, develop a headache or have a histamine reaction. Often it is hard to self-diagnose an allergy of your own. For instance, maybe you don't have a specific allergy and rather your symptoms are related to the fact that you consumed too much alcohol. Or maybe you think you are allergic to a new wine when really your body had a delayed reaction to something that you ate earlier in the day. Therefore, it is always advisable to seek professional medical advice related to any allergies instead of self-diagnosing. If you think you may have one of these allergies, there could be other foods or beverages that you should be avoiding in addition to alcohol. A doctor can guide you in discovering the root of your allergies.

Allergic reactions to alcohol
Two doctors

Warning

If you are suffering from an allergic reaction to alcohol, seek professional medical help immediately. Unfortunately, there is no real treatment for allergic reactions of allergies that will fix the problem. Seek a way to avoid consuming the types of alcohol you are allergic to so you can get by without endangering your health whenever you want a drink, for example, instead of wine made from grapes, choose Japanese plum wine or apple brandy.To be completely free of allergic reactions to alcohol, abstain from drinking.

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