Many people experience negative symptoms when drinking alcohol, only to come to the conclusion that they must be allergic. When in actuality, that's most likely not the case!
Wine, beer, vodka and alcohol allergies in general are extremely rare. If you have a negative reaction to alcohol, it's more likely that you have an alcohol intolerance or an allergy or intolerance to an ingredient in the drink.
But what if only a certain type of alcohol gives you a reaction? Learn more below about negative reactions to beer, wine and vodka and how you can reduce your symptoms.
Alcohol intolerance (or Asian Flush)
If you experience negative symptoms after drinking alcohol, one of the main causes could be an alcohol intolerance. This is sometimes called Asian Flush as a high percentage of Asian people suffer from this condition.
In short, Asian Flush means your body is unable to break down alcohol properly, and your system is flooded with a chemical that causes negative symptoms. So while it's not a true allergic reaction, it's still uncomfortable and sometimes painful to drink alcohol.
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What are the symptoms of a beer allergy?
Again, a true allergy to beer is rare. More commonly, you have an intolerance to something used to make the beer during the brewing process. However, just because you aren’t allergic to beer doesn’t mean you can’t experience negative symptoms, including:
- Stuffy nose
- Stomach pain
- Wheezing or worsening asthma
- Hives or red skin (primarily on the face, neck and/or chest)
What ingredient may I be allergic to in certain beers?
There are a lot of ingredients, additives, and preservatives in beer that can cause negative reactions in some people. As mentioned above, symptoms of a bear intolerance can look like an allergic reaction, even if it isn’t actually one.
Some ingredients in beer that cause the most issues include:
- Gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley). This can really upset people with celiac disease as it’s found in numerous different types of beer and cider
- Specific types of grains
Looking for drinks that are gluten-free is a quick way to limit your reaction if gluten is the issue. If you love drinking beer but hate getting a negative reaction, you may have a better experience drinking alcoholic-free beer instead.
What are the symptoms of a wine allergy?
Thankfully, a true allergy to alcohol, including wine, is very rare. However, you might have an alcohol intolerance or intolerance or allergy to something included in wine.
Like intolerance to beer, symptoms of a wine intolerance include:
- Nasal congestion
- Facial flushing (including red cheeks)
Most commonly, people report feeling flushed and get nasal congestion when drinking wine when they have some level of sensitivity or intolerance. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ingredients in wine that can cause some negative reactions.
Your reaction to wine could be caused by a sulfites intolerance. These can be found in beer and wine to limit the amount of yeast in the drink and preserve it for longer. Typically, white wine has a higher level of sulfites than red wine or beer, although the chemical is found in all three types of drinks.
In the end, sulfites in wine are one of the causes of a negative reaction when drinking.
Histamine is found in the body naturally and is broken down by an enzyme. If you don’t produce this enzyme properly or effectively, you’ll react negatively to the higher amount of histamine in your body.
Histamine is found commonly in aged cheese, smoked meats, beer and wine. However, red wine is the worst culprit for histamine, more so than beer or white wine.
Can I be allergic to vodka?
A true allergic to vodka, or alcohol, is extremely rare so it’s more likely that you have an intolerance to alcohol in general.
If you experience immedient negative symptoms after drinking vodka, it’s important to speak to your doctor before drinking again. Just because you may not have an allergy to alcohol doesn’t mean that your negative reaction to alcohol is meaningless.
If you find that your reaction is more extreme depending on the type of alcohol you drink, it’s likely that there’s an ingredient in that specific drink that’s upsetting your body. Some people find that vodka gives them less of a reaction compared to red wine.
However, it may be that drinks with higher alcohol content impact you worse than those with less alcohol content. If your body has trouble breaking down alcohol (alcohol intolerance, or Asian Flush) it may struggle to deal with alcoholic drinks with a high alcohol content.
What are the signs and symptoms if you are allergic to vodka?
If you are truly allergic to alcohol, including vodka, symptoms of this allergy include:
- Trouble breathing
- Hives (which may be painful)
- Swelling of the eyes, nose and/or throat
Generally, the symptoms of an alcohol allergy can be very similar to those of a food allergy. Either way, it can be very serious and even life-threatening. If you think you may have an alcohol allergy, it’s vital to speak to your doctor before drinking alcohol again.
On the other hand, symptoms of alcohol intolerance are similar but far less severe. Rather than severe trouble breathing, you may experience some wheezing instead. Or instead of painful hives, you might experience a red face. The symptoms are similar, but not as intense as a true allergy.
Why do I get cold-like symptoms after drinking alcohol?
Feel like you’re getting sick with a cold after drinking alcoholic beverages? You’re not alone!
This may be a sign that you have some level of alcohol intolerance. Many symptoms of alcohol intolerance, such as nasal congestion, headaches, nausea or stomach cramps could trick you into thinking you’re getting a cold. However, if these symptoms are due to alcohol intolerance, they should only last a short period of time.
What causes itching between the fingers after drinking?
Itchiness, including hives or red flushing of the skin, is a common symptom of alcohol intolerance. It’s a sign that your body is negatively reacting to alcohol or an ingredient in alcoholic drinks.
Can you be allergic to hard liquor but not beer?
Simply put: no. If you have a true allergy to alcohol (ethanol) then you will experience a serious negative reaction to alcoholic drinks. However, you may find that you experience a worse alcohol intolerance reaction to hard liquor, but less of a reaction with drinks like beer and cider.