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Tannin allergy symptoms

Updated March 23, 2017

Tannins are an acid common in many drinks which can, in some cases, cause allergic reaction. As with any allergic reaction, these symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, but all should be taken very seriously. Knowing a little bit more about tannin allergies can save your or a loved one's life. As with any medical condition, if you suspect a tannin allergy, consult a medical professional for ways to deal with the allergy.

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Mild Reactions

Tannins are most commonly present in red wine, coffee and teas . As a product of a plant, tannin can cause sudden reactions in some people, even those who have consumed these drinks for years with no ill effects.

Mild symptoms include a mild headache, jitteriness or anxiety. This is because the body is reacting as if the tannin were a minor infection and the body is ramping up adrenalin, histamines and other defences to fight off the invader.

Moderate Reactions

Moderate reactions can occur if someone with a mild reaction consumes tannin again, or they may happen spontaneously. These symptoms are more severe and can become problematic.

Some moderate symptoms include nausea, upset stomach, diarrhoea and more severe headaches. Some people even experience hay-fever-like symptoms. In these cases, histamines are beginning to overreact to the presence of tannin and are trying to eliminate this "toxin" from the body as soon as possible.

Life-Threatening Reactions

Some people can spontaneously experience life-threatening allergic reactions to tannin, though most people who have life-threatening reactions have had mild or moderate reactions before.

In a life-threatening reaction, a person may experience difficulty breathing, a choking sensation, swollen tongue or other blockage of the air passageway. This is caused by a severe overreaction of the body's histamine defences, resulting in a swelling of soft tissues and mucus membranes.

Ancillary Reactions

Some studies suggest that a mild form of tannin allergies may, in fact, exacerbate other chronic illnesses including asthma. Similarly, some people experience migraines or "hang overs" after consuming even a small amount of red wine. In these cases, tannin allergies may be exacerbating an allergic reaction to sulphides used to preserve wine.


The best prevention is to avoid consuming drinks with tannins in them all together. Solutions to tannin allergies include the ingesting of an antihistamine medication in mild to moderate reactions or may require the injection of atropine, a powerful anti-inflammatory, in the case of life-threatening reactions. Only a physician can prescribe atropine and those who have experienced a life-threatening reaction, or whom the doctor feels might experience one, should carry a one-use "pen" with them at all times and wear a MedicAlert bracelet.

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About the Author

Michael Hinckley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in US history from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Arts degree in Middle East history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Hinckley is conversant in Arabic, and is a part-time lecturer at two Midwestern universities.

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