Allergic and asthmatic reactions to alcoholic drinks Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Alcoholic drinks are capable of triggering a wide range of allergic and allergic-like responses, including rhinitis, itching, facial swelling, headache, cough and asthma. Limited epidemiological data suggests that many individuals are affected and that sensitivities occur to a variety of drinks, including wine, beer and spirits. In surveys of asthmatics, over 40% reported the triggering of allergic or allergic-like symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption and 30 - 35% reported worsening of their asthma. Sensitivity to ethanol itself can play a role in triggering adverse responses, particularly in Asians, which is due mainly to a reduced capacity to metabolize acetaldehyde. In Caucasians, specific non-alcohol components are the main cause of sensitivities to alcoholic drinks. Allergic sensitivities to specific components of beer, spirits and distilled liquors have been described. Wine is clearly the most commonly reported trigger for adverse responses. Sensitivities to wine appear to be due mainly to pharmacological intolerances to specific components, such as biogenic amines and the sulphite additives. Histamine in wine has been associated with the triggering of a wide spectrum of adverse symptoms, including sneezing, rhinitis, itching, flushing, headache and asthma. The sulphite additives in wine have been associated with triggering asthmatic responses. Clinical studies have confirmed sensitivities to the sulphites in wine in limited numbers of individuals, but the extent to which the sulphites contribute to wine sensitivity overall is not clear. The aetiology of wine-induced asthmatic responses may be complex and may involve several co-factors.

publication date

  • March 2003