According to the Mayo Clinic allergies to alcohol are very rare, and only one percent of the total population have an allergy to alcohol. When you are experiencing allergy-like symptoms to alcohol this could be something contained in the alcohol that triggered your allergic response. Or it may have been something you ate, or any other number of factors in the food you ate, the air you breathed or the cologne someone is wearing. A true alcohol allergic reaction is similar to a food allergy because alcohol has food ingredients in it such as wheat and barley.
You may be sensitive to alcohol, but you may not be actually be allergic to the alcohol. A true food allergy involves your immune system. Your immune system would trigger an allergic reaction when a substance of the food or the alcohol is communicated by your body as being harmful. That would cause your body to produce antibodies to fight the enemy.
The true signs of a food allergy are: tingling of the mouth, hives, breathing difficulties, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat making it harder to breath. However drinking alcohol can cause adverse effects on your body from the food ingredients in the alcohol such as wheat, barley, grapes , or yeast. You could also experience anaphyylaxis while drinking alcohol due to being allergic to the ingredients in the alcohol.
Having too much to drink may make you feel like you have an allergy, with the symptoms you will experience such as a headache, vomiting, cramps, stomach pain, and a general overall achy feeling. But that doesn’t mean you have an allergy to alcohol.
Some people experience flushing skin, or red, itchy skin after drinking alcohol and may be having a reaction to the ingredients in the alcohol. Sometimes when people drink a glass of wine their face becomes flushed and they may be having a reaction to the sulfite’s in the wine. Some people are allergic to the sulfite’s, while other people are mildly intolerant to sulfite’s. While consuming an alcoholic drink, some people may experience their face flushing due to any number of other factors such as menopause, feeling warm, or being embarrassed.
Many people of Asian descent experience an unusual flushing reaction after drinking alcohol. This is caused by having a genetic disorder in which the body is unable to break down the alcohol completely in the body.
To find out if you have an allergy to alcohol, you will need to discuss this with your doctor. She will be able to help you through a series of questions and she may send you for allergy testing. You might just be allergic to the wheat in the alcohol, or an ingredient in the food you ate while drinking. You could also be allergic to a breakdown product of the alcohol such as ethanol or vinegar. Be sure to always drink plenty of water while consuming alcohol to maintain proper hydration and seek medical attention if you are experiencing severe allergic symptoms while drinking alcohol.