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How to Tell if You’re Allergic to Alcohol

taking alcohol allergy test

At beClink, we are proud to service a variety of different clients who choose not to drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Whether someone is pregnant or nursing, on a specific medication or simply wants to live a healthier lifestyle, we provide alternative beverages with all the taste and atmosphere of alcohol, but without any of the worry or guilt.

However, some people choose not to drink alcohol for a very unique reason—they’re allergic. While often deemed synonymous, there is a distinct difference between an alcohol intolerance and an alcohol allergy. As Healthline says, “People often call alcohol intolerance an alcohol allergy, and vice versa. People who have a true alcohol allergy should avoid drinking alcohol entirely.”

While true alcohol allergies are rare, the reactions can be very severe. What you might think is just a bad hangover or a response to the sushi you ate last night could actually be your body having an allergic reaction to the alcohol consumed. So, how can you know whether something is just a hangover, an alcohol intolerance or an actual alcohol allergy? Here are some ways to tell.

Understand the difference.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between an alcohol intolerance and a serious alcohol allergy. While both are definitely uncomfortable, an allergy can be potentially lethal. An alcohol allergy means literally any alcohol—not just the ingredients used to make the drinks, but the process which makes them alcohol.

An alcohol allergy means the body cannot metabolize alcohol properly, while an intolerance could mean a lesser allergy to the ingredients in an alcoholic beverage, not the alcohol itself. Dr. Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health, told Shape Magazine, “Intolerance to a component or additive in the alcoholic beverage (like histamine or yeast) produces a much less severe reaction. This may include itching, nasal congestion, nausea or diarrhea.” An alcohol allergy, on the other hand, has a much more severe reaction.

Know the risk factors.

Once you understand the difference between an intolerance and an allergy, know the risk factors which go with an alcohol allergy. There are certain components which factor into a higher risk of having an alcohol allergy. Once you know these factors, you can be better aware whether or not an alcohol allergy could potentially affect you. According to the Mayo Clinic, these risk factors include things such as:

  • Being of Asian descent.
  • Having asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
  • Having an allergy to grains or to another food.
  • Having Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

People with these factors are at a higher risk for an alcohol allergy, because their bodies generally do not have the proper enzymes to break down and metabolize the toxins within alcohol. If any of these factors apply to you, they might be worth noting as a potential link to an alcohol allergy.

Recognize the symptoms.

Of course, not everyone at risk will have the allergy, and not everyone with the allergy will have the same risk factors. Therefore, it’s also vital to recognize the symptoms of an alcohol allergy. More than just a bad night from drinking, an alcohol allergy will show severe symptoms, such as these from WebMD:

  • A red, flushed face.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Hot feeling.
  • Headaches.
  • Heartburn.
  • Hives.
  • Rash.
  • A fast heartbeat or palpitations.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Stomach pain, which may include nausea or vomiting.
  • Trouble breathing.

While these symptoms can also be signs of an intolerance, a true allergy will demonstrate more than one symptom at a more severe rate. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to be aware of these symptoms and their intensity, in order to better monitor your potential allergen.

Take the test.

Finally, if you truly believe you might be experiencing an alcohol allergy, the most helpful thing you can do is talk to your doctor. They will most likely ask about your family history, consider your symptoms, do a physical exam, a skin prick test and potentially a blood test as well. While all of these are
helpful, the best sure-fire way to tell if you have an alcohol allergy is to stop drinking alcoholic beverages and see how you feel. If you feel better, then an alcohol allergy was likely the cause. If you do not, continue to work with your doctor to try and find a better solution. Testing for an alcohol allergy can be a challenge, but is so worth it once you know the cause for your ailments and can avoid it altogether. Living an alcohol-free lifestyle may be difficult in the beginning, but in the end will be a much more rewarding and healthy experience.

While some people choose to avoid drinking alcohol for personal reasons, others might avoid it for their own health and wellbeing. If you think you have an alcohol allergy, consider these tips to learn more. Give the alcohol-free lifestyle a try and see how your health can improve.