Alcohol Allergy: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment


Alcohol allergy is a toxic reaction to alcohol, or ethanol more specifically. It is recognized as an inherited metabolic disorder that causes unpleasant symptoms when alcohol is consumed. Though allergies to alcohol are fairly uncommon, it can be fatally serious. In this case, drinking just a small or moderate amount of alcohol may cause serious consequences.


Alcohol allergy is caused by a genetic condition in which your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down the toxins in alcohol efficiently. The only way to prevent these uncomfortable reactions is to avoid alcohol. However, causes may vary from case to case since what seems an alcohol allergy is actually the action to something in an alcoholic beverage — such as wheat, barley, rye, hops, yeast, grapes, food marinades, tomato puree, overripe fruit that has fermented. Combining alcohol with certain medications — such as cough syrups and mouthwash — also can cause reactions.


If you do have an alcohol allergy, even a small amount of alcohol can cause symptoms. In some cases, it can even cause anaphylaxis. In most cases, possible symptoms may include:

  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Headach
  • Heartburn
  • Hot feeling
  • A red, flushed face
  • Red, itchy skin bumps (hives)
  • A fast heartbeat or palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Running or stuffy nose
  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Aggravation of asthma

Having a mild allergy to alcohol or something else in alcoholic drinks might not require any medical treatment. However, if you have a serious reaction or severe pain, you’d better check it out with a professional immediately.


To make a proper diagnosis, the doctor may first order a physical exam, ask about the medications, vitamins or supplements you take and the dosage, and check for visible symptoms of alcohol allergy. If they suspect you have a true allergy to alcohol or another ingredient in alcoholic beverages, they will likely conduct allergy testing. The most common type of allergy testing is the skin prick test.

Skin Prick Test

This test is applied to determine whether you might have an allergy to something in alcoholic beverages (e.g. grains in beer). During the test, your skin is pricked with a tiny amount of a substance that could be causing your reaction. If you’re allergic to the substance being tested, you’ll develop a raised bump or other skin reaction.

Oral Challenge Test

In some cases, doctors might apply this test to diagnose an allergy to alcohol. In this procedure, they will ask you to consume a sample of your suspected trigger. And then, they will observe if any symptoms are presented.

Blood Test

By conducting this test, the doctor is enabled to measure your immune system’s response to certain substance by checking the number of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream known as immunoglobulin E antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a laboratory to check reactions to certain foods. However, these tests aren’t always accurate.


If you have a true alcohol allergy, the only and the best method to get rid of the symptoms is to completely keep yourself away from alcohol or the certain beverage or ingredients that cause the problem.

Other useful tips on how to handle this issue are listed below:

  • If you have a mild allergy to alcohol, medications like antihistamines can be used to relieve your allergic symptoms (e.g. alcohol rash). It will help to lessen the itchy feeling or hives.
  • If you find yourself suffer from severe reaction, you should receive one or more doses of epinephrine. It’s available in preloaded syringes, known as epinephrine auto-injectors. Besides, you can also consult your doctor and get a tailored prescription of epinephrine auto-injector. In case you may have the allergy again, you should carry it with you all the time.
  • If you must drink alcohol or alcoholic drinks, before you get started, you’d better read through the beverage label to see if it contains any substance that may cause an allergic reaction.
  • You can also wear medical alert bracelets which may help to inform others about the allergy problem especially when you’re not able to speak due to the allergic reactions.

Related Posts

How is an Allergy Skin Test Performed?

Alcohol Test — Results Interpretation

Keywords: alcohol allergy, allergic reactions

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.