Alcohol Allergies: Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment for Reactions

What is alcohol allergy?

True alcohol allergy is rare, but the reactions can be severe. What most people believe to be alcohol allergy is actually alcohol intolerance. Some people are also allergic to other components of alcoholic drinks. For example, potential allergens in alcoholic drinks include:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye
  • hops
  • yeast
  • grapes

People often call alcohol intolerance an alcohol allergy, and vice versa. People who have a true alcohol allergy should avoid drinking alcohol entirely.

What are the symptoms of alcohol allergy?

If you have a true alcohol allergy, even small amounts of alcohol can cause symptoms. In some cases, it can even cause anaphylaxis. This is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • itchy mouth, eyes, or nose
  • hives, eczema, or itchiness on your skin
  • swelling of your face, throat, or other body parts
  • nasal congestion, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
  • abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness

You should never ignore the symptoms of an allergic reaction. If left untreated, an allergic reaction can quickly become worse. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can be fatal.

It’s possible to develop an alcohol allergy at any point in your life. Sudden onset of symptoms may also be caused by a newly developed intolerance. In rare cases, pain after drinking alcohol might be a sign that you have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If you develop symptoms after drinking alcohol, make an appointment with your doctor.

What causes alcohol allergy?

If you have an allergy, your immune system over-reacts to contact with a trigger or “allergen.” If you have an alcohol allergy, your immune system treats alcohol as a threat. It responds to alcohol by producing antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies trigger an allergic reaction in your body.

True alcohol allergy is very rare. Alcohol intolerance is more common.