You Might Be Allergic To Alcohol If This Happens To You

Allergy season is just around the corner, and for those of us that are used to the onslaught of sneezing, watery eyes, and headaches, we know what to expect. But what if one minute you're sitting down to have a glass of wine after a long day of work, and the next you've got a rash and other unexplained symptoms? You may not have ever heard of it, but you could be suffering from an allergic reaction to alcohol. And left untreated, it could turn deadly.

Alcohol intolerance and alcohol allergies are actually two different conditions that sound similar but create very different reactions within your body (via Cleveland Clinic). If you have an intolerance to alcohol, your body is not able to metabolize it, or convert it into energy. This disorder is genetic and passed down from your parents. As your liver breaks down alcohol into different byproducts, an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) further breaks the chemicals down into harmless acetic acid, also known as vinegar. If you have the genetic mutation for alcohol intolerance, the ALDH2 that your body makes isn't as good at breaking down the dangerous byproducts of alcohol.

Alcohol allergy or intolerance?

The most common symptom of alcohol intolerance is a warm redness or flushing of the face. This differs from the symptoms created by an alcohol allergy, which include itchiness, rash, stomach cramps, and even swelling. Alcohol allergy symptoms are often much more unpleasant than the side effects of alcohol intolerance. That's because alcohol allergies are caused by an immune system reaction. This causes your body to go into defense mode because it thinks a foreign body is attacking it. Fortunately, alcohol allergies are not very common.

It's more likely that you are allergic to an ingredient in the alcoholic beverage you've consumed. Allergies to corn, wheat, or yeast, or intolerances to histamines and sulfites, are common causes of reactions after drinking something with alcohol in it. All of these can potentially trigger reactions that are similar to an allergic reaction to alcohol (via Healthline). If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction after consuming alcohol, it's important to be checked out by a doctor, since certain allergic reactions or intolerances can actually be life-threatening.