Beware of Alcohol Allergies This Holiday Season

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alcohol allergies

Did you know that you could have an adverse reaction to alcohol? 

True alcohol allergies resulting in anaphylaxis are quite rare, but if you do have one, even small amounts of alcohol may trigger a reaction. This may result in hives, swelling, throat closing, GI or respiratory symptoms, or dizziness. In rare cases, if untreated, an alcohol allergy can be life-threatening. More commonly, some people can have an alcohol intolerance instead of an allergy.

One type of intolerance, which is more common in the Asian community, is an inherited metabolic disorder. This means the condition results from a family gene in which people cannot break down Ethanol. This results in skin flushing and warmth. You may also experience severe headaches and nausea after consuming alcohol.

Another type of intolerance is sulfite sensitivity. Sulfites are added to foods to prevent spoiling and discoloration. They are often found in wines and beer. Common symptoms are nasal congestion, runny nose, headaches, shortness of breath, and wheezing. 

Beware of cross-contamination

Patients often react to an allergen/ingredient in the drink. Common allergens in alcoholic beverages include:

  • Barley
  • Egg protein
  • Gluten
  • Grapes
  • Hops
  • Rye
  • Sulfites
  • Wheat
  • Yeast
  • Fruits

Risk factors

Risk factors for alcohol intolerance or other reactions to alcoholic beverages include:

  • Being of Asian descent
  • Having asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Having an allergy to grains or another food
  • Having Hodgkin’s lymphoma

How to Avoid Alcohol Allergies This Holiday Season

If you’ve experienced allergy symptoms after drinking alcohol in the past, we recommend visiting an allergist to get a proper diagnosis. Many allergy offices, like NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, offer extended hours before the holiday. After a proper diagnosis, you should avoid alcohol. Fortunately, there are plenty of bubbly and festive non-alcoholic drinks that you can make this holiday. Here are some delicious non-alcoholic beverages:

Italian Blood Orange Soda

Italian Blood Orange Soda

Toasted Marshmallow Campfire Cocktail

Toasted Marshmallow Campfire Cocktail

Cranberry Pomegranate “Bellinis” With Lime

Cranberry Pomegranate "Bellinis" With Lime

Grinch Punch

Grinch Punch

Meet the Physician Collaborator

Dr. Sima Patel is a qualified allergist providing comprehensive medical care. She earned her osteopathic medicine degree from the Touro College and University System, New York. She completed a fellowship in allergy and immunology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Dr. Patel is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Patel treats patients for a host of common and specialized allergies. She understands the intricacies of allergy management and believes it is possible to achieve a fully healthy allergy management and treatment plan through collaborative efforts with the patient. Dr. Patel takes a genuine interest in researching and updating herself on various new advancements in allergy and immunology, so her patients get the best and the most advanced treatment possible.