Many people in Sellersville like to unwind with an alcoholic beverage after a stressful day, or stop by the local pub for a celebratory occasion. Yes, sometimes “Friday” is reason enough for a toast! As comforting as a glass of wine or shot of bourbon can be, there are many negative health effects associated with alcohol consumption – including worsened allergy symptoms for some unlucky individuals!
Allergy Symptoms That Alcohol Worsens
We rarely think of alcohol as having much to do with allergies; the usual offenders – pollen, pet dander, dust mites, environmental pollutants – get the lion’s share of negative press. But alcohol can contribute to a worsening in allergy symptoms. Some people are even allergic to alcohol itself and can experience symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to hives. These individuals may be suffering from immune system or digestive problems resulting from alcohol consumption, or allergic reactions to ingredients found in certain alcoholic beverages, such as histamines in red wine, gluten in beer and other hard liquors and foods commonly used to make alcoholic beverages, such as grapes, wheat, barley, hops and yeast.
Even if you aren’t allergic to the ingredients in alcohol, drinking it can worsen symptoms such as sneezing and coughing. Alcohol has been linked to a variety of allergy symptoms, including:
- Nasal blockages/discharge
How Alcohol Affects Symptoms
Alcohol itself rarely causes an allergic reaction. More often, it interacts with components in the body’s immune system, causing reactions to lower levels of allergen; quicker allergic reactions; or more severe allergic reactions. Even the alcohol manufacturing process can trigger reactions in some individuals. Drinking alcohol that has been aged in wooden barrels, for instance, can cause reactions in people with a tree nut sensitivity. That’s something few people with allergies think about when hoisting a glass and settling in for Happy Hour!
Alcohol is found in many common food and household ingredients. If you suffer from allergic reactions to alcohol, your diligence in avoiding it isn’t limited to just saying no to vodka. You’ll need to scrutinize labels carefully when using any of the following:
- Salad dressings
- Cough syrup
- Tomato sauces and purées
Alcohol intolerance is far more common than a true alcohol allergy. An alcohol allergy is the result of an immune system problem, while alcohol intolerance is triggered by genetic problems in the digestive system that make it difficult for the body to break down alcohol properly. If you suffer from alcohol intolerance, you’ll experience facial flushing, nasal congestion and other symptoms that might include rash, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and headaches. A true alcohol allergy causes far more serious symptoms and may trigger an anaphylactic reaction – a medical emergency that can cause rapid or weak pulse, fainting, shock, coma and even death.
In order to decrease your odds of an allergic reaction when consuming alcohol, drink in moderation and choose beverages such as low-sulfite wines; red wine, which tends to have fewer sulfites than white; or – if histamines are the problem – go for white wine, which usually has a lower histamine count. If you suffer from a genuine alcohol allergy, avoid it altogether.
Your Sellersville ENT specialist can give you more information on alcohol allergies and tips for safe consumption.