Press release from AAAAI.ORG about alcohol and allergies from Allergic Girl colleague, Dr. Clifford Bassett:
MILWAUKEE – Toasting the New Year is a tradition that can cause more than a headache the next day. For some people, drinking may also trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
“It is usually not the alcohol itself that produces the reaction. It is most likely ingredients, such as sulfur dioxide (metabisulfite), yeast and additives. Common allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, flushing and warmth of the skin, bronchospasm or shortness of breath, especially in those with asthma,” according to Clifford W. Bassett, MD, FAAAAI, Chair of the Public Education Committee of the AAAAI.
The key preservative in wine is sulfur dioxide. It is naturally produced by wine yeast in small quantities during fermentation. Sulfur dioxide is also used as a preservative in foods such as dried fruits, baked goods, condiments, canned foods, shellfish, frozen shrimp, canned tomatoes, frozen potatoes and fruit juices. If you tend to have a reaction to these foods, you may also experience it with wine.
Histamine can be another culprit. Bacteria and yeast in the alcohol generate it. Histamine is naturally released by the body during an allergic reaction so even if you don’t have an actual allergy, drinking alcoholic beverages may cause a runny or stuffy nose, itchy, runny eyes or worsening of asthma symptoms. Red wines often have a larger amount of histamines than white wines.
If you think you are allergic to beer, it is most likely the barley, corn, wheat or rye in beer that may cause similar allergic reactions.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, visit www.aaaai.org for more tips and information that can help you have a happy, healthy new year.
The AAAAI (www.aaaai.org) represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has nearly 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. To locate an allergist/immunologist, visit the AAAAI Physician Referral Directory at www.aaaai.org/physref.