It is surprising to learn that there are some people who develop allergic reactions to alcohol. The usual symptoms for allergies to alcohol include heart palpitations, headaches and feeling hot and are due to some ingredients found in wine, beer and spirits. To the few who have allergic reactions to alcohol, even an ml of pure alcohol is sufficient to start severe rashes, stomach cramps, collapse and even anaphylaxis.
It is the liver that breaks down alcohol into chemical, acetaldehyde and then acetic acid. When alcohol is not broken down, allergic reactions to alcohol may occur. Besides ethanol, alcoholic drinks have a mixture of grape, yeast, natural food chemicals, hop, barley and wood derived substances. And it is the proteins found in these grains and fruits that cause allergies in some people.
The fining agents like egg and seafood proteins are at times used for removal of unwanted organisms, fermentation and cloudiness by encouraging solids to fall out of suspension. However it is not clear if this is found in sufficient amounts such that allergic reactions are triggered.
As the human body produces small amounts of alcohol, allergy tests for alcohol usually come out negative. It is basically the breakdown products of ethanol like acetaldehyde that come out positive to allergy tests. People suffering from asthma usually find that wine, and not beer or spirits tend to worsen their asthma.
This is attributed to the sulphites like sodium metabisulphite that is added to these drinks as a preservative by inhibiting bacterial and yeast growth. This in turn prevents the wine from becoming vinegar and thus gives wine a longer shelf life. Those suffering from poorly controlled asthma may wheeze on consuming these drinks.
The sweeter is the wine, the more sulphur dioxide found in it. So people suffering from sulphur allergy may react to drinks having sulphites. Moreover, as asthma is also related to enzyme deficiency, an asthma patient may not be able to break down acetaldehyde on drinking alcohol. This in turn leads to asthmatic reactions in the patient.
The body tissues tend to release histamine in allergic reactions to alcohol leading to irritation. Red wines have lots of histamines in it that may trigger wheezing, sneezing, runny nose, stomach upset and headache. So if you have allergic reactions to alcohol, you should consider taking fruit wines with lower histamine levels.
Sometimes the alcohol found in food marinades, tomato puree, mixes, cough syrups, injected medicines and over ripe fruit is sufficient to trigger allergic reactions. These allergic reactions can be controlled by identifying and avoiding the causes, wearing a MedicAlert bracelet at all times and to carry adrenaline as a part of an emergency plan at all times.