Can you be allergic to alcohol?

Can you be allergic to alcohol?

The answer is pretty simple really it is a big yes. It may be an allergy or maybe an intolerance either way it is good to know.

Can you be allergic to alcohol and not know? Well normally there would be anything from a mild reaction to a very serious reaction. Now I am not a medical expert but having been through a moment where I nearly lost my liver to a reaction of alcohol I kind of know what to look out for.

Remember we are talking poison here, sorry but that is ultimately what it is and it may of course have harmless social benefits for the majority.

At the end of the day, when you get symptoms, just begin to take extra notice, read advice, seek help and generally be more aware than others. If the reaction is extreme as it can be seek help urgently.

The main allergies or effects of alcohol can relate to your stomach and skin but if you are a social drinker like I used to be keen an eye not just allergic reactions but in symptoms that mean your liver is not functioning property.

Let’s deal with several areas first then we can dig a bit deeper.

So an allergy to alcohol can mean the appearance of :

  • Hives – raised and elevated on the skin
  • Red skin
  • Blotches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Breathing issues

If fact, if you have tasted alcohol and get some kind of physical reaction no matter how insignificant, it is worth checking them out. Hives that leave a discolored skin and last a long time could be more serious including liver disease so best get them checked out straight away.

Most reactions are harmless but it worth noting them and if possible get a tested for an allergy to alcohol. Remember this is something I have learned and alcohol can also be in food which may not have an effect as the levels are so low but most people think of reaction to do with “drinking alcohol”.

Are these symptoms different from liver disease?

With liver disease issues it generally does not happen overnight but for me it was a matter of a few months when I knew something was wrong. However, liver disease is a bit more distinctive as you don’t always get the symptoms straight away. Symptoms can be similar however so here is what I noticed:

  • Very yellow skin
  • Yellowing of the eyes
  • Swelling of the legs and stomach
  • Itching
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Gagging

Of course some of these are similar to an everyday allergic reactions to alcohol however just as people thought I looked tanned, symptoms can be confusing so get checked.

How do you get rid of an allergy rash from alcohol?

Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines from your chemist or pharmacy can work in mild situations and this might help reduce symptoms, especially very harsh symptoms such as itching or hives.

However, although this is one of the easiest ways to treat symptoms that might not be the answer long term. It’s a bit like sticking a plaster over the issue and hoping it goes away.

Remember to tackle the cause and if this is alcohol then maybe it is time to look at your alcohol drinking habits.

You can check out my review of alcohol free gin and tonic here

This blog is designed to help you find alternatives however and I say this someone who is passionate about 0.0 alcohol options remember it could also be something else. For example:

  • Sugar
  • Hops
  • Barley
  • Additives
  • Ingredients added to both non and alcoholic drinks.

However on this blog I have noticed a real drive to organic options including vegan free and non harsh chemical routes. The most interesting thing of course it that alcohol is not just in drinks it is in toiletries as well including

  • Deodorants
  • Hairspray
  • Soap
  • Shower Gel
  • Hand gel.

Now although you are not drinking any of these, you are not are you? OK good but it can cause very bad skin reactions especially if you have a sensitive skin issue.

You can do a search on this blog for products I have reviewed to give you an idea of the alternatives out there and they are growing in size. Or you can check out my review of alcohol free hand gel here.

What else is alcohol in apart from drinks?

It’s a bit like cleaning your apartment or house. You think it will be a quick job but when you start looking the dust, well it is everywhere. Is that just me? It’s the same when I tried to conquer wheat. It’s in more things that you could imagine from packed ham to other basic food stuffs.

I remember walking around the supermarket aisle in astonishment! Checking the labels, although it has been tough for me personally with alcohol free products and abv content! It was good training trust me.

However, some fruit juices contain alcohol as do some breads. Plus if you are eating out some food purposely gets alcohol added and I guess it a key part of cooking but put your health first. Tip: Watch out for the sauces!

Why am I sick every time I drink alcohol?

Well there are two things going on here and they are actually linked but not. That’s helpful I hear you say but it is :

  • Stomach acid
  • Alcohol Poisoning

The first one is that alcohol can stop the correct processing of food in the system so it can make you feel very nauseous. I know social drinking did not agree with my stomach lining becoming damaged and I am still being treated for that now. You can get medication for this issue and I will probably be on them for a long while but your doctor or pharmacist can help short term.

However, here is the big but we are back to symptoms and causes and if you only deal with the symptom the cause remains.

Now if you have just had too much to drink and the body can’t process it will take the decision to get rid of it in any way it can. As my mum would say “better out than in”.

This can also lead to a very bad hangover and extreme cases of alcohol poisoning which can be fatal so get yourself to an emergency department straight away.

Can you develop alcohol intolerance later in life?

Yes of course as we know how the body changes as we get older however be aware of generalizations. I know older people who can club till dawn and people in their twenties who are in bed by 10pm in Ibiza!

So alcohol intolerance can happen at an early age whereas liver disease can take years to develop. Except when it does not of course!

The best advice is know your own symptoms regardless of age and if in doubt get checked out.

I realize from personal experience including unfortunately from the therapy world how people can be very judgmental about alcohol even if they drink themselves so you have to cut through that and find the people willing to help.

I have actually found medical professionals with just a few exceptions very open-minded while getting lectured by an alcohol therapist during research for this blog.

So maybe I thought this should be the other way around ? Alas I ended up disappointed especially and I was not even her therapy client, I don’t even drink alcohol anymore!

Have you tried total zero alcohol beers?

One of my goals at this blog is to help raise awareness and increase the demand for non-alcoholic options. Research has shown by universities that if the good choices are there, then people will take them! That’s great news because manufacturers will see profit signs and I totally get they are there to make money, however it could be a win, so happy days.

I have written a review of alcohol free beers here and the wonderful alcohol free fizz here. Just click on the links and I would value your views. So if you do have to say yes to the question, can you be allergic to alcohol ?

Well there are now more options out there so you can enjoy a night out with friends and not feel totally excluded. Can you be allergic to alcohol? Its Yes, I’m afraid.

What are your thoughts?

Can you be allergic to alcohol? What are your thoughts and experiences? If the answer is yes, what did you do? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences and you can leave them below. I always respond.

Have you switched to zero alcohol products? So what has been your experience of that? I would love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “Can you be allergic to alcohol?”

  1. As a society we have become so used to “drinking”, the idea that somebody might be allergic to alcohol at first seems quite unusual.  However, thinking about it, it is indeed highly logical, as you say it is poison! I had a friend who could not drink anything or risked a reaction in his liver that could kill him. “Poison”, perhaps that is how we should encourage people to rebrand it in their minds so as to reduce their intake. Or stop! The fact you nearly lost your liver due to a reaction is a warning for others. The list of symptoms you describe is a really helpful reference. Are you allergic to all alcohol including wine and beer or is it just spirits? Have you considered a detox to ensure your liver is working properly after your experience?

    • Hi Trevor, Thanks so much for commenting on can you be allergic to alcohol. I really liked your honest approach. I am sorry to hear about your friend, that is really tough stuff. I think the notion of a rebrand is an interesting one and I do wonder if the warnings could be changed to include the liver point. It can really have dramatic effect. 

      However liver disease and allergies relating to alcohol carry a stigma and as such they are treated very differently. I think this is a real miss!

      I am afraid alcohol is completely out for me including spirits as any more alcohol in my system could literally kill me and damage the liver even further. Although my lifestyle has adjusted to that and that is why my mission is to increase the zero alcohol options out there. 

      I am lucky in that I have had great medical care and interesting you mention liver detox as I have written about that here. In can in some cases do more damage. So clean living for me 🙂 Although the benefits of coffee are starting to be well documented now. 

      I really enjoyed reading your comments and it will certainly add immense value to the blog and for that I am extremely grateful. I wish you all the best, Phil

  2. Oh yes you definately can be allergic to alcohol!! I know this first hand. Ended up in the ER and have not had a drink of alcohol since. Not only that every since then as you stated some fruit juices give me hives my dr also thinks cuz of the alcohol. It is better to be alcohol free and even watch out for a lot of processed foods. 

    • wow that is really interesting especially about the fruit juices. I love these kind of comments as it really brings home the issues that can happen. 

      I am so pleased you are now well and that is was clocked quickly, that is not a nice experience at all. Spot on about processed food as well. I write about alcohol in food here. Good call. Thanks so much for leaving a comment on can you be allergic to alcohol and for being so honest and helpful. Much appreciated, Phil


Leave a Comment