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Allergic reaction to alcohol

  • r

Twice now, I've had a bad reaction to alcohol and I'm not sure what component caused it.

The first time, I drank just a few sips of champagne (don't remember the label) and about 10 minutes later, I felt my face get very hot, and I turned red as a beet. I mean, flaming red, all over my face. It took about 1/2 hour to cool down.

The second time, I drank a few sips of something called "Toxic Waste" (at a theme party). The drink was made up of Midori, vodka and Mountain Dew, that's all. Same thing happened--flaming heat on my face, beet red, cooling down after 1/2 hour.

Luckily, both times I was able to slip away without being noticed, as I would have been mortified to stand around looking like a lobster.

So does anyone have an idea what could have caused this kind of reaction? I've drunk more than one brand of champagne without any problem; ditto, vodka. Never had Midori though. Any thoughts are much appreciated!

  1. I don't know if it's technically an allergy or some other sort of hypersensitivity, but I do know someone who developed the same syndrome you seem to be experiencing. I don't know exactly how old she was when it happened, but she was well into adulthood and had been a regular (not heavy, just regular) drinker before that with no ill effects. Unfortunately, it seems to be permanent, at least in her case. I don't know if that's typical, but the bottom line is that it's not some sort of unheard-of bizarreness and probably has nothing to do with the Midori itself (although the stuff is so sickly sweet, it might cause a reflex gag reaction by itself.;) )

    2 Replies
    1. re: MikeG

      And actually, now that I think of it, I once knew yet another person who had the same problem, also developed well into adulthood (that poor guy had a lovingly amassed, fairly well-stocked wine cellar to dispose of after it came upon him.)

      1. re: MikeG

        Are either of the people you're speaking of Asian or have visited Asia? There's a possible link.

    2. i have the same problem and i've always chalked it up to the fact that i'm asian. genetically, asians don't process alcohol that well and often have allergic reactions even from just drinking a little bit. usually i'll have half a glass of wine and start to turn red (the asian glow!), but not be anywhere close to being drunk or buzzed. it's been getting worse as i've gotten older, so maybe you've always had a little bit of an alcohol allergy, but now the symptoms are showing up more as the years go by? just a theory...

      there are certain kinds of alcohol that make me more red like crappy wine (red or white), yeasty champagnes/sparkling wines (good or crappy), heineken (specifically, micro-brews (aka "hippy beer"), and cheap/well liquor. things that don't affect me as bad are top-shelf liquors and bud light (go figure).

      6 Replies
      1. re: rebs

        Half of Asians, but not only Asians, have a genetic variation of the enzyme (dehydrogenase) used to process alcohol that causes them to metabolize alcohol too quickly into acetaldehyde -- which causes the redness and flushing as it builds up in the body.

        But there's a step two that makes the acetaldehyde (and the redness and flushing) hang around longer. The variant enzyme also causes the too-slow metabolism of acetaldehyde into the benign acetic acid. So alcohol metabolism by folks with that variant enzyme is both too fast -- in its conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde -- and too slow -- in its conversion of acetaldehyde into acetic acid.

        I've heard from a number of Asian wine-drinking friends that after they drank a very small amount of alcohol (a few sips of wine or beer) regularly, their bodies somehow learned to metabolize alcohol normally, with no redness or flushing. Of course, this is anecdotal info and not scientifically valid. But it's curious.

        An allergy to alcohol is very uncommon. The basic thing to remember is that an allergy is a reaction to a protein, and you don't find much of that in alcohol. Most likely, if there is an allergy, it's to a substance IN the beer or wine to which one may be allergic: wheat, corn, yeast, hops, barley, and the egg or seafood proteins that are used to "fine" [filter] and clarify wine.

        Sulfites are not the culprit. Lots of new research says sulfites are not the cause of any wine or beer reaction, unless you already suffer from asthma or have the rare sulfite oxidase deficiency. Lots more info on CH if you do a search.

        Histamines have been ruled out as well in recent medical studies. Tyramines, found in wine and other beverages containing alcohol, can cause a hypertensive reaction that includes headaches, hyperventilation and fast heartbeat. Especially if the tyramine-containing beverage is consumed with tyramine-laden foods, like cheese, mushrooms, salami, cured meats, and so on.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          You are spot on that the "flushed face and drunk quick" reaction after consuming very little alcohol is as a result of people having a variant in the gene that codes for the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            I am of European desent, and drink regularly but very moderately. A drink or two most days. I get a blotchy red face, back, neck and arms from a few sips of alcohol, beer or vodka drinks usually, but only once or twice a year. Less than one percent of the times I have a drink and my immunity defenitly isn't improving with regular drinking. Certain types of alcohol seem to do it, but stress, food lack of rest seem to be part of it. There is more than just 'Asian flush' genetics and a pre determined allergy at play for some but not all people. I like the idea that a certain protein is to blame because of my very irregular symptoms and the severity of the symptoms after only a few sips. I have no other food allergies and usually stop drinking when it happens. I wish I knew what I, and obviously others, have.

            1. re: nichol0

              I get this reaction and its very random. I can go months without having it and drink normally fine. other times it happens every time i drink. and sometimes it can be one beer. other times its vodka or other liquor. its sooo random. and not only do i get red in the face and chest, my lungs get tight and its hard to breath. I wonder if its cause i have asthma, but my brother gets it too but he doesnt have asthma and he doesnt have the breathing reaction. i take my inhaler and i can breath better but i stay red... I want to know why this happens....

              1. re: nichol0

                I am also of mixed European descent (Irish/English/Scottish), drink regularly and moderately, and just noticed about a year ago (age 37) a sudden reaction at an office party to a glass of wine we had as part of a celebration. I turned suddenly red and had to leave for a time. Even my eyes were bloodshot. I assumed at first it was chemicals or something on my wineglass and chalked it up to nothing. In the interim, however, I have noticed a similar problem with other forms of alcohol (beer, rum, etc.). It only happens sometimes (seemingly randomly), though it seems strongest when I haven't eaten anything. I don't have any known food allergies. I really don't think it's the same thing as Asian flush because the symptoms are stronger/different. I similarly wish I knew what was causing it. Not the worst thing in the world but a bit of a social inconvenience.

                1. re: RobL92201

                  Hi Rob, this may be the start of skin condition known as Rosacia. It affects northern people of northern european decent. Alcohol, stress, spicy foods are all triggers for what starts out as redness of the t-zone and around the hairline. The condition will continue to worsen into your 40's with red scalely patches to eventually flake off and normalize over a period of 5 days. Avoiding alcohol will dramatically reduce flareups of the condition.

        2. this happened to me in college an the doctor told me that certain wines and shell fish combine to cause this reaction. several years later it occured again and the doctor told me it might be a reaction to sulfites in the wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood

            So interesting, this has happened to me as well! One night after some champagne and an appetizer with Caviar or roe of some sort I ended up spending a "wonderful" evening at Mt. Sinai. My alergist did numerous blood tests and we still have not figured out what it was I am allergic to. Then a couple years later, after white wine and swordfish, the same thing happened. I don't get uniformly red though, I do break out in hives and feel like I can't breath and my throat is closong!
            This only happens on occasion and my Dr. didn't mention the combo could cause this. Though I suspected as much.

          2. n
            Name withheld

            I've experienced this also. It started when I was in my early 30s, a few years ago. It comes and goes -- sometimes it will happen every time I drink, other times periodically, and sometimes never.

            Perhaps it is more likely to happen when I'm stressed, or drink particular types of alcohol, or in combination with something else. I don't know. I haven't noticed anything.

            I've talked to my dermatologist about it because I thought it was a reaction to a medication I was taking. He said it wasn't related. He may have said it was related to rosasea-I don't recall. In any case, he said it is harmless (other than the mild discomfort it causes). Naturally, don't take our advice -- if you are at all concerned, talk to a dermotologist.

            1. We have a good friend who can not drink red wine without getting "red" herself. No problem whatsoever with white wine or hard alcohol. I've been told it could be one's "histameans (phonetic spelling)" that cause this problem since there are some in red wines.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Monty

                many people are allergic to wines and get the flushing, with a range of other symptoms-- the more you drink the worse it will be also may react to some types of wines but not seriously to others. some folks can't drink fermented beverages-- beers, wines because of allergies, but they are fine with distilled liquors (hard liquor). the wine allergies can develop later in life due to genetics or lifestyle, age or other factors. i'd stop drinking wines and stick to 1 or 2 mixed drinks (meaning only one type of liquor used, with one mixer, and ice) and avoid brightly colored party wapatoowee that you have no idea what it contains. the flushing is one of the mildest symptoms of the allergy and it gets more unpleasant. . .

                1. re: soupkitten

                  i can drink wine, beer, and liquor without this reaction most the time. other times I get the reaction no matter what I drink. Its sooo random...

              2. k
                King of Northern Blvd.

                It used to happen to my wife all the time. Red wine, Champagne, A crazy frozen drink etc. It would randomly happen and it would soon go away.. It hasn't happened since she gave birth almost 3 yrs ago..Go figure.

                4 Replies
                1. re: King of Northern Blvd.

                  Funny you mention child birth as a starting or stopping point - my wife could drink fine up until the birth of our first child 14 years ago . Since then , one or 2 sips and its red face and tingly sensations.

                  1. re: Birddog415

                    Again, it is interesting that you say that. I had an allergic reaction twice to alcohol...see above. However, when I was pregnant and therefore not drinking and was extremely careful about what fish I was eating I had no reactions. The swordfish incident happened about 2 months post partum, which was also one of the first nights I had swordfish and probably more than my fair share of wine.
                    Also incidentaly, my mom says she is allergic to alcohol, and we were discussing this during dinner. A dinner of crab cakes and white wine! However tonight I seem fine.

                    1. re: SweetPea914

                      I'm fascinated by all of this. I started having this reaction, redness, tingly and heat that starts in my ears and quickly spreads across my face like a sunburn. Occasionally redness on my upper chest. It only take a few sips to prompt this, but the reaction is inconsistent at best! It only happens after drinking wine, but only a few times a year (although I often pass up wine fearing this flushing in public). Also, this started about 6 mos after my 1st child was born, which is after about 15 mos of not having any alcohol at all. I'm curious if not having alcohol during pregnancy and nursing somehow changed the enzymes used to process alcohol (as suggested by others above). HERE'S THE QUESTION: HOW DO I REVERSE THIS??? I used to enjoy getting a glass of wine when dining out as I do not like beer nor prefer mixed drinks :(

                      1. re: Abalti

                        I'm not an expert, this is just my 2 cents: my mother had severe food allergies and was able to overcome them to a large extent by eating the things she was sensitive to only once every 4 days, and then she built up an immunity. Princeton University is the one who studied her and gave her this diet, so it's not some flaky thing. On day 1 she could have, say, chicken, peas and potatoes, day 2 beef, corn and rice, day three pork, salad and cornbread, or something like that; anyway it worked pretty well for her. Sort of like if you're allergic to cats, but you get a short haired one and hang with it anyway, eventually you aren't that allergic anymore (happened to my husband). Same as going to a doctor for allergy shots I guess. So avoiding wine is probably counter-productive, not that I'm advising you in anything but theory.

                        Just remembered, she was allergic to wine too, but it wasn't the wine itself, it was the sulfites, so she started drinking organic. But then I learned in school that the alcohol in champagne is absorbed through your mouth and not your stomach, when I told her this she experimented and found that she could drink champagne with no problem at all. So another thought.

                2. I would look into the roseaca issue.
                  Fairly common among people of German, Dutch, Irish, and some other nationalities. Basically, people with what is refered to as "peaches and cream complexions". If that doesn't apply, read no more.
                  It is rarely addressed, cause people just think it is blushing, which it is. Uncontolled blushing. It does need to be treated, at least to the extent it can be. It can progress in some cases to where blood vessels rupture in your face, causing permanent scaring.
                  There are many triggers. Most commonly stress, some alcohols, and some foods.
                  It is also the main cause of what is refered to as "adult acne".
                  If any of this fits, see a dermatologist.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                    I have rosacea and get redder and redder as I drink. Spicy foods, alcohol, stress, and warm temperatures will cause the "blushing". You should be checked out by a doctor. It can do major damage to your skin and inside your nose. It is treatable with a daily cream.

                    I still eat and drink whatever I want, and I still get red as a beet.

                  2. r

                    Thanks for all the answers. Funny thing is, this happened so randomly, only twice, and 2 different drinks so I couldn't figure out the connection. Of course it had to happen while dealing with clients! I've had both champagne and other alcohol since and no reaction.

                    Thanks again.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: reallyrednails

                      I have the same problem as you. Also started in my 30's. Now I don't drink at all. I few sips and I'm red as a beet, face and neck. Neck swells and feet also swell and begin to itch horribly. I attest to being allergic to the tannins. This is from wine and champagne not necessarily from grain alcohols. I do have terrible allergiy to some flowers and plants too. Can't drink some chinese herbal teas for the same reason. The Rosacea can also an issue. :( KQ

                    2. Happens to me on occassion also - especially if I drink my first drink/beer too fast but sometimes there is no reason. Its been happening to me on and off since I was in my early 20's. Sometimes it can be severe enough that I have trouble breathing. Taking a break and waiting until it subsides is the only thing that will make it go away.

                      I thought this article was pretty informative (see link below):

                      Link: http://www.allergy.org.au/aer/infobul...;

                      1. A friend of mine has the same problem when drinking alcohol. It is often referred to as "Asian blush or flush" (although non-Asians have the same reaction). The solution she swears by is to take Pepcid or another H2 blocker before drinking. Check out the link below for more info.

                        Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asian_Fl...

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: WorkinginSF

                          WARNING! I don't have any comment on the effectiveness of preventing blushing with this (no experience), but BE CAREFUL about which H2 blocker you choose. Pepcid would be fine, but Tagamet (cimetidine) and Zantac (ranitidine) are known to inhibit gastric alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme in your stomach that breaks down some of the alcohol you consume), meaning you could get a little more PUNCH out of the drinks than you expect. There's plenty of debate about the extent of the effect, but just be aware of it if you give this a try.

                          1. re: WorkinginSF

                            Are you sure this works taking Pepcid becasue this happens to my face to and it is real annoying my whole chest even gets red the only thing that helps me not get red is to take painkillers when I drink or something else to not make my face red so please let me no if this really works because I would like to stop doing that.

                            1. re: 4th n 26

                              I'd say try it. It can't really hurt. A lot of alcohol has histamines, and an antihistimine would work if that is what is causing your reaction.

                              1. re: 4th n 26

                                It worked for an old boyfriend of mine. But I have other friends that said it didn't work for them.

                            2. Same exact thing happens to me...with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Over the years, I've linked it (I think) to hormones. Doesn't have anything to do with what alcohol is it I'm drinking.
                              If you figure it out...let me know!!! :)

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: shopgirl

                                I had my first "Red-Face" attack in months last night. My face was on fire, and the bright red blotches that I usually get on my chest and neck spread to my arms and legs, I also had shortness of breath. Like you, there is no rhyme or reason. I've experienced it with wine, good vodka, good beer, margaritas- and I've had dozens of times I've drank those things with no reaction at all. Like many others, it started in my 30's and it sounds a lot like the Asian drinking thing- but I'm not Asian.

                                Like you, I have noticed I am more succeptible to it at certains times of the month. Hormones can have a powerful affect in our bodies.

                                1. re: shopgirl

                                  I am actually typing this with my "red mask" on,I just had about three drinks of a Jameson and ginger ale and found this discussion board. I am only 22 and this is killing my social life, it is so embarrising because people ask me if I need to go to a hospital or if im ok that I really dont even drink. Ive tried every kind of alcohol I could think of to see if it has the same effect, only to find that its completely random! This is so frustrating! I think I am going to try taking benadryl before my next drinking excursion to see if that works, because my girlfriend has to be getting tired of me saying weve gotta go because my face is about to get red. It is so strange how I can feel it coming, it starts in my right ear, and then moves across my face leaving me deathly pale around the eyes and spotty all around my face but mainly my cheeks and forehead. Well I guess I will post a response to this after trying the benadryl...

                                  1. re: ollie88

                                    Maybe you could give some consideration to socializing over something other than alchohol?
                                    I did, when I was young; I just didn't like it, and no one looked askance at me for it. I think it's better than needing to leave a good time behind because of a red face, though I'm sure it's not your first choice.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      I guess my post came out the wrong way. I dont just want to socialize over alcohol by any means, but when my friends and I all go out I would just like to have a couple drinks without getting this reaction.

                                      1. re: ollie88

                                        That's what I understood you to be saying, not suggesting you have an alchohol problem... you could pursue with with an allergist or an environmental or clinical ecology doc; they will often focus on desensitization to food and drink more than allergists, but as much as it's a drag not to be able to have a social drink, it must be more of a drag to have it and then need to leave.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          So this past weekend I took a vacation to florida, and I tried taking benadryl about a half hour before having a couple beers while barbequing and it seemed to work. Although my symptoms are so random Im not completely convinced yet that it wasnt just my body not reacting... So im going to try it again next time I want to have a drink and see if I get the same results.

                                    2. re: ollie88

                                      WATER! I first got it when I was 24 on Christmas eve. The dreaded beer rash turned my face totally red with blotches down my neck. Being of fair complexion it looked like massive sunburn!
                                      Found out my oldest brother had experienced it a few times before (my other 2 brothers never had it). It usually appears after 2 or 3 days on the booze non stop or during an all dayer. I think wine definitely induces it faster. 4 or 5 pints Im fine.
                                      I'm 27 now and it certainly hasn't got any better but its still quite random. I find to prevent it I'll drink a small glass of water every 2 to 3 pints.

                                      When I do get it, water certainly helps calm it down. 2 or 3 pints and after about 1 hour it reduces and after 1 1/2 hours it goes. Hope this helps.
                                      Would love to know what kind of booze makes it worse or to avoid any foods that make it worse!

                                      1. re: eddieg111

                                        This describes EXACTLY what happens to me! I'm 26 and it started happening when I was 21. Every time I feel it coming on I head straight for the water and don't stop drinking it until the redness starts to subside. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the redness to go down & then I can start drinking again. It happens so often I can feel it coming on before my face even turns red... it feels like something is trying to get out of my face... like pressure under my skin pushing outward. When I feel that I know the redness isn't far away.

                                        This happens randomly but I noticed it happens with greater frequency after drinking vodka. I cut down on the vodka and it happens less now. It also happens after all day bingers and trips where I'm drinking for days at a time.

                                        I think the triggers are different for everyone and you just have to find what causes it in you.

                                        I did some research and found that it may be caused by an accumulation of a by-product of alcohol metabolism in your system. Apparently you can take Pepcid or other heartburn medicines and it helps to prevent the build-up of this by-product by inhibiting the metabolism of alcohol... so you get buzzed faster and stay buzzed longer with no redness... I have yet to try it but the weekend is coming up :)

                                        I thought this only happened to me... sucks but it's good to know I'm not the only one.

                                        1. re: jjordan0221

                                          Wow holy crap. I didn't think many people had this issue. My face has always gotten red from drinking and itchy but after a recent surgery I didn't drink until I was off my amoxicillin (1 week) had a drink (1/8 th of a Smirnoff ice) and my face got to the point it was throbbing. It seems to be worse with vodka for me too. In going to try water next time. Thanks!!!

                                  2. Are you within 10 years of menopause? I know it's a very personal question but a pertinent one, just the same. It first happened to me when I was about 35, and continued on and off for about 10 years. I never knew when it would hit so I had to be careful. Luckily, it is now a thing of the past!!

                                    1. Wow. This happens to me, occasionally, and exactly as described. It first started in my mid-30s (I'm not female, btw) about ten years ago -- and I've never really been able to associate it clearly with any factor other than alcohol. It seems to happen more often on an empty stomach, and sometimes I've thought nuts or other bar food were associated with it. But really, it is random, and the drinks and/or food that set it off will not do so on other occasions.

                                      My doctor said it was a clear allergic reaction, but thought it peculiar that the reaction wasn't consistent each time. Looking at the info above, roseaca doesn't quite fit the symptoms, though the "Asian flush" is quite close. I'm also not Asian, but don't suppose that really matters.

                                      1. this happens to a friend of mine. she takes benadryl prior to drinking and she doesn't change color anymore.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: da_seuss

                                          My doctor suggested carrying benadryl so that if the reaction got severe enough to begin to close the windpipe I could take it -- but the combination of alcohol and benadryl can be pretty potent and should be watched.

                                        2. My mother gets the same reaction. She only drinks wine, champagne, or an occasional margarita. Now that you mention it, I don't think that the margaritas give her this reaction. The level of redness and hot skin can vary. She's only an occasional drinker so she's not planning on stopping anytime soon. Your case may be more severe...not sure.

                                          1. I am 25 and I experience the following symptoms when I drink any sort of alcoholic beverage. Usually happens after about the 4th or 5th drink, and is more likely to happen even sooner on the 2nd night of drinking: Flushing in my cheeks and forehead, shortness of breath, odd "stomachy" taste in my mouth that comes up from my stomach. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms together? First I get the shortness of breath, then the taste, then the flushing. It has put an end to many good nights! I am going to try the Pepcid trick, and see if it resovles the problem this weekend.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: psuth

                                              Hi,i get the exact same symptons as you,i also have a touch of asthma i have to take my inhaler when i get shortness of breath,i usually get these symptoms when i drink spirits and sometimes beer did you find any cures yet.

                                              1. re: psuth

                                                Hi - i realise you posted this a long time ago so I may not get a reply, but your post described EXACTLY my symptoms, happened again last night. Did you find out what caused it and how to prevent or cure it??

                                              2. My wife has the same exact reactions to alcohol as you do . She takes just one or two sips and she turns beet red and has a tingly or hot sensation in a sort of mask pattern across her face. After a 1/2 hour or so it slowly goes away. It started about the time she had our first child -14 yrs ago. Before that she had no problems . Not that it would tie in with this problem but she also has allergic reactions to honeydew melon,her lips swell up and feel numb or tingly. We've been searching for an answer for a long time.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Birddog415

                                                  I have the "mask pattern" thing too-- the skin around my eyes stays pale but everything else is extremely flushed, and I can feel the pulse of my heartbeat in the skin on my face and chest.

                                                  This has only happened to me 2 or 3 times, generally when I've had quite a bit.

                                                  1. re: sonia darrow

                                                    I never normally participate in these conversation feeds, but you are the first person I have read about that experiences exactly the same as me. The amount of alcohol consumed does not matter for me, neither is their any pattern to the regularity (although recently it seems to be becoming more frequent). A random question, have you ever been to Japan!? I lived there which is where the problem first developed, as it did with a few of my other western friends. The mask is exactly as you described it. Looks somewhat like a panda! I was just wondering if you have come across any cause for this? It is certainly an embarrassment when it does happen, especially if you are out with clients as they assume you are drunk (even if it is just after the first sip). Just wish I knew when it was going to happen...

                                                    1. re: GSherriff

                                                      I have never been to Japan. Since my last post I've had this happen a couple more times, with less intensity (and also less of a distinct "mask" thing). Most recently it happened after only having had a sip of alcohol, so I guess it's not related to over-indulging.

                                                      I plan on noting what I've had to drink in the future when it happens, to try and figure out if it's related to any ingredient in the drink.

                                                      That's really weird that you and others have developed the problem for the first time in Japan, what with the whole "Asian Flush" syndrome. Obviously it's just coincidence since Asian Flush is a genetic predisposition, but...

                                                      I wonder if it has to do with fusel oils, or some other incidental product of certain (but not all) brewing/distilling techniques. That could explain the regional correlation.


                                                2. In general when I'm in Europe or in China alcohol doesn't bother me as much as in the USA, where as long as i can remembered, alcohol consumption always made me turn red from the face down to my neck, and sometimes my breathing becomes a bit heavy.

                                                  There seems to be no logic, except that emotional/stress level always affects adversely. Other than that, most recent couple of years I didn't drink much while in the US. I trained and worked out a lot. Then at a wedding in the US i had some red wine. Not much reaction. At the same wedding, later in the evening, I had two shots of tequilla back to back, still nothing. I mean this was the quick-empyting, bottoms up kind of shots. Nothing, except slight warmth in the stomach.

                                                  A month after that, I was in China, eating lamb hot pot with a group of people. We drank the Chinese Tsing Dao (which tasted better in China) steadily, along with the Russian liquor made of red hot pepper! I must have had 4 or 5 shots of that on top of the beer...A slight warmth and rosy color to my cheeks only, no dizziness at all.

                                                  Is it really possible that the sulfite is the culprit? Does alcohol overseas not contain sulfite? Or is it mindfulness when drinking, i.e. not rushing the drink, timing it out with food...etc. that's making the difference? Or a combination of both?

                                                  1. I don't think sulphites is the answer - she only slightly sips a Budweiser and it starts . I told her about the Pepcid AC taken one hour before drinking working for others on here . We'll see . We're only occasional social drinkers so its not likely we'll be testing it out any time soon.

                                                    1. Hi Again,

                                                      It has been about 2 months since my last post, and the Pepcid AC trick seems to work fairly well. I usually take 10 to 20 mg an hour before drinking, and about a half hour after eating dinner. It works very well if I have not had a drink for a few days..but works less effectively if I drank the night before. On new years eve I got the symptoms toward the end of the night, and believe that it was because I was eating and drinking and the same time. The reaction seems to stay away as long as I do not eat while I drink. From what I hear, our bodies can become immune to the Pepcid AC, and therefore we will have to take more and more of it..which is not good. Even when I take 2 during an evening, my stomach feels off the next day. Not sure what the long term solution is to this, but I have heard that the vitamine NAC can help to prevent the build up of the enzyme Acetaldehyde that causes the symptoms, along with carrot juice. It is worth a try.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: psuth

                                                        I am so happy I found this board! I have been experiencing the red "mask" reaction to alcohol the last three times I've had a drink. I've never experienced the reaction before. I am in my mid 40's. I've reacted from margaritas, white wine and Joe's Hard Lemonade. I am on Zyrtek for a different allergy around my eyes (unknown, as of yet, but probably to a cosmetic or other substance) and thought it was from the alcohol and Zyrtek interaction and am disappointed it may be something I may go through forever. I react after less than 1/4 glass of a drink. I start to feel very hot around my eyes, like I am sunburned, then I feel tingling and throbbing around my eyes. Luckily, because of my other allergy, I carry Benadryl with me all the time. I usually pop the Benadryl and the symptoms go away within a half an hour, but I've always completely stopped drinking any more of my drink once the reaction starts and I take the Benadryl. I am anxious to try the Pepcid hint and may start taking a Benadryl before I drink, or I may just have to quit having a drink--which is maybe one or twice every two weeks. Thanks for all your hints!

                                                        1. re: psuth

                                                          It's funny you should say that because I can drink several glasses of wine or beer (doesn't matter what colour wine) and not go red at all (sometimes a little flushed) but if I eat - say at a dinner party - it is then I go blotchy and hot faced, this is then followed by a very red face. I can actually feel it coming on? Whereas, if I only eat a few nibbles, all is ok. I DO think it is related to eating dairy products whilst drinking alcohol, as I have been noticing it more if I eat say a pizza or a pudding? It is sooo frustrating. Just last week I ate a thai (spicy) and my nose even blocked up?

                                                        2. Okay, I haven't drank since my three incidents, but I have a bad cold and last night took Nyquil, and quess what? Yup, Nyquil has alcohol in it and I got the lovely red mask from that little amount! It wasn't as bad as the other episodes, but very noticeable. I take Zyrtec at night, so that zapped it. I haven't tried Pepcid yet, but will soon........

                                                          1. This happens to me randomly and infrequently. The first time it was red wine, but white wine and mixed drinks do the same thing to me on occasion.

                                                            1. How about hiccupping? This happens to my neighbor, and I thought it was just a joke form the 1930s-40s?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  I've been known to hiccup when drunk. It always makes me laugh because it's such a stereotype. Then I'm stuck with a simultaneous case of giggles and hiccups, which can get a bit painful.

                                                                2. Hi there,
                                                                  I well be 31 this year and to this day i still can not drink, any wine's(red's,white.bubbly) spirit's, Rum's or Vodka's! I first realized i had an allergic reaction to alcohol when i was at a wedding (many year's ago)and just touched my lip's to a wine glass, as you would at wedding's to have a small taste..it was just enought to touch my lip's and with that My face had become swollen, very very hot, red, blotchy, and i felt as if my heart were going to jump out of my chest( i think my blood pressue when mad that time). So now at the age of 31 I still can not touch wine's or anything else that i have noted above, beer's arent too bad, still getting a little red and hot but nothing as extreme as the Liquor and wine's. I did mention it too my dentist at one time when he asked if i were allergic to anything, i told him about the wine situation and he said that it was the "Sulfites" that i had the reaction too, it wasnt the actual alcohol it was that one ingrediant...so im wondering if it is that, and not the actual drinking of it?????Im glad all the same it's just not me that get's like this if and when having a social drink , it's soo shameful, to have a bright face that takes forever too cool down.....

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: smou

                                                                    My mother is extrememly allergic to sulfites, but champagne doesn't bother her, I understand that it's ingested through the mouth and not the stomach and that makes the difference for some reason. She also used to drink Bully Hill wine from upstate NY but I think they're long gone. No sulfites, plus a really cool back story.

                                                                    1. re: smou

                                                                      I'm so glad someone has added vodka to the list of alcohol offences. I get the same reaction with fish but they said the sulphites have to be rreeeeally high for it to register on a blood test. I'm so glad that I'm just a party girl with rosie whatever and not scoricis of the liver. How can we combat these sulphates? I've tryed piriton but sometimes this can have a very nasty reaction with booze. I have all sorts of skin troubles does everyone else or is it only with drink? My skin troubles include ecsema and psiorisis only mildly but severe on my hands after a night on the lash. Love to hear a sulphate cure as I have been told I was having panick attacks when perfectly happily because I couldn't breathe etc. I knew they were wrong cheers guys

                                                                    2. My hubby gets a lovely splotchy neck and face after drinking any white lspirits like vodka or gin. He also gets very mouthy (more than usual) I think it is a reaction to the white spirits but its not something that seems to bother him. My sister is very allergic to champagne and gets very red and her face will actually swell. Ruined her honeymoon night.

                                                                      1. My first suggestion is to ask your doctor about it. It sounds a little scary and there might be some kind of medical explanation that will make sense. I have a friend who is Japanese and cannot drink at all because she lacks a particular enzyme needed to metabolize alcohol--she describes reactions that are similar to what you shared here (lots of people of Asian descent are prone to this, from what I understand). While it is good to know others experience similar symptoms, I think you should talk to someone who might know more about how we process alcohol, like a doctor. I'd hate to think you could not drink at all--maybe there are certain kinds of beverages that precipitate this kind of reaction in you that would be good to know about.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: liveforfood

                                                                          Hi there - months after you posted this comment about your friend lacking the enzyme need to break down alcohol but - interested in your friend's diagnosis. How can they diagnose that you have not got the enzymes - alcohol dehydrogenase?? More importantly can it be fixed?? I'm 40 and haven't been able to drink for 5 years now as I get violently, violently ill (vomitting, diarrheoa) for hours after even a very small drink of spirits, liquers, wine, champagne or beer. Am desperate to fix it as not drinking for the next 30 years is a most depressing thought!!! Help??

                                                                          1. re: wannadrink

                                                                            wannadrink you are not the only one who get violently ill I spent 2 hours throwing up after I took niquile instead of dayquile I have not been able to take a drink of any kind of alcohol in over 10 years...I have now gotten to the point that smell of alcohol makes my stomach turn and I have had to avoid foods cooked with alcohol, I have talked with both my doctor and allergist and both seem to think it is an allergic reaction at first they thoght food but I react to all alcohols now they think it is how my liver proscesses alcohol...he csays my reaction compairs to that of alcoholics who are taking enzyme pills so they can not intake any alcohol. If it is just some types of alcohol then it my be a food allergy to something they all contain.

                                                                            1. re: wannadrink

                                                                              I know your post is old but I have desperately been searching for a solution for 28 yrs! My problem is I get violently ill-severe headache (think severe hangover) for 3 or more days , from just a SIP of anything alcoholic. I enjoy the taste and experience of a glass of wine or a cocktail . I know in the grand scheme of things - "I should just get over it" and I can live without alcohol , and have for all these years But I really miss an occasional alcoholic anything. I've tried "chasers" hangover med from GNC) taken prior and while drinking, works great for some of my friends. Also tried all the usual- no wines , sulfate frees wine, only top shelf or white liquors, no sweet drinks. Did you ever find a solution? I am a nurse , and I definitely buy into the issue of lacking the enzyme to break down the alcohol so therefore it remains in my system longer or makes toxins other who tolerate alcohol don't . Good luck with your quest for help as well, maybe you are even better by now- that would be great.I will try the pepcid and singulair but I am desperate for any other ideas. I just even miss been able to go to a wine tasting, or tour a vineyards etc. Any help from anyone would be gratefully appreciated.

                                                                              1. re: doglover3

                                                                                I'm not recommending this, as I'm not a doctor, but I have a friend who has a tough time drinking due to a similar reaction. He now takes Benadryl beforehand and has no reaction. Again, to reiterate, I'm not suggesting you try it, just that it works for him.

                                                                          2. This is in fact a problem with people from the Pacific rim, myself included. We tend to lack alcohol dehydrogenase which helps to metabolize alcohol. Needless to say that makes me a pretty cheap date...

                                                                            1. I have the same problem. It occurs only sometimes and seems to be more prevalent with wine, wine coolers, champagne, and other drinks with sugar. I am not diabetic or sugar-sensitive and have had these reactions periodically for the past 20 years (since I took my first sip of Champagne).

                                                                              My face gets flushed to varying degrees. Sometimes it's moderate, other times it is frighteningly red. Then I get a strange burning/pain sensation in my torso, from my shoulders down to my abdomen. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like my cells are being squeezed. Usually I can tolerate it okay, but a couple of times it was so bad that I was on my hands and knees from the pain. It usually lasts 10-20 minutes, then goes away and does not return even if I continue to drink.

                                                                              I should mention that I am not asian. I am caucasian of Polish/German ancestry. I have never had this reaction with beer. And again, it only happens sometimes (very unpredictable).

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: thebeann

                                                                                Interesting that you mention sugar content- I've wondered if the this reaction is linked to the high sugar content alcohols. I do seem to get red more often with champagne or margaritas, but I've also gotten it with Belvedere and diet tonic.

                                                                                Has anyone else noticed the sugar correlation?

                                                                                1. re: thebeann

                                                                                  i am glad someone mention sugar content as well..i like to drink strwberry margaritas ans it doesnt happen rite away, but my face swells and so does my abdomen...this never happened until about a month month and a half ago...have had all sorts of bloodwork done bc swelling doesnt go away for long....no one can figure it out...

                                                                                2. i get this occasionally, usually really bad on my neck. its always quite embarassing in social situations. my husband has had this happen 3 times in 10 years- with a fair amount of drinking in those years- and it has gotten progressively worse each time. last time his face was really red and blotchy with raised blotches and his pulse was going abnormally fast. it really scared me. wish we could figure out how to avoid it! we'll try the pepcid.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: bfry

                                                                                    I've also been getting this flushing for a couple of years now and I am only 20. However, its changed recently in that I don't remember flushing anymore, although it still might happen but just not as intense as before. Instead, I will randomly wake up with small pimple sized red scars all over my face. It has only happened to me like 5 times, but enough for me to link it directly to alcohol, and probably eating food, especially cheese from pizza. Does anybody know what these scars are? they look like a small allergic reaction and they only stay for a day or two, but I still wish I didn't get them.

                                                                                    1. re: bfry

                                                                                      I get this, normally on the second day of a boozing seshion, but randomly at other times. Starts with a difficulty in breathing, heart rate speeds up, then i will get the "red mask" effect which is very embarrassing, if i stop drinking it goes, then once it has gone i can drink how ever much i want and it wont come back that night! weird... Also had it once on a plane with no alcohol involved. Advice i would give is to drink slowly and if you feel the first symtoms, stop, then start drinking again after they have gone.

                                                                                    2. Hi all, this used to happen (turned bright red from a drink or two). It was embarrassing to even drink a toast at a wedding! Plus my sinuses also got stuffed up. I recently discovered that if I take claritin in the afternoon before drinking (so it has time to kick in) I am fine! (Seems so obvious now...!) PS I am not Asian but I am very fair skinned and that seemed to play into it as well.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: markndc

                                                                                        Wondering after reading this thread, if any of you have ever had a pain or discomfort behind ears, after drinking. This happened to me in my 30's after one tequilla drink and I stopped drinking tequilla. I did not have the red flush but did experience discomfort behind the ear lobes. It almost felt like I had mumps. Since then it has happened a few times after drinking wine. I wonder if an antihistimine could me this alcohol senstitivity?

                                                                                        1. re: foodseek

                                                                                          I have also had the same symptoms as all the others. After drinking Vodka about 15 to 30 minutes my face turns beat red and feels like it is sunburned. This first starting happening in my early 40's. Are we allergic to alchol? please help

                                                                                          1. re: foodseek

                                                                                            Just noticed this thread and wanted to tell foodseek that I experience something very similar around the ears. It seems to get me most often after the first swig of a beer: especially a very hoppy beer. I'm very curious to know the cause.

                                                                                        2. I've been suffering from this condition also for 5 years now. My friends refer to it as "the rash". My face goes red, my body is covered in blotchy red skin and my hands and feet get incredibly itchy (the itchiness usually an indicator to me that the rash is coming on).

                                                                                          It is extremely hard to predict sometimes I can drink myself into a coma and nothing. Other times I can have two drinks and I break out.

                                                                                          I recognise that I have some sort of alcohol intolerance but refuse to allow this intolerance to affect the quality of my drinking life!

                                                                                          Generally I find that the rash is more likely to raise its ugly head (so to speak) if i am dehydrated (and yes alcohol is a dehydrator) or haven't drunk as much water during the day as I ought to. Due to the dehydration issue, I have found that I am not intolerant to any specific kind of alcohol (ie wine) but rather all alcohol.

                                                                                          I control the condition by immediately flooding myself with water. Can be uncomfortable and inconvenient but the rash subsides and I can continue to enjoy my night out.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: eelrak

                                                                                            Last night I has a few sips of vodka and then my nose starting running, I continued to eat and drink. Then my eyes felt itchy, my scalp felt itchy as well as my chest. By the time I had finished my food and two vodkas and left the restaurant my right eye was almost swollen shut and the left a bit swollen. The bridge of my nose was also a bit swollen. Please has any one else has this happen? Scared the crap out of me. I don't think it was the food because it started while we were eating guacamole and salsa which I have had a million times. I am 52 and all I need is to have to give up drinks!

                                                                                            1. re: hooverdoover

                                                                                              Hey, im 22 year old and and for the past month and a half every time i take a sip of beer, wisky vodka or even wine my right eye gets swollen and every time is progresive so be carefull i recomend u go to an allergist that what im gonna do!!!! Allergra 180mg helps with the swelling
                                                                                              Mayra from Puerto Rico

                                                                                          2. I think it may be a combination allergic reaction to certain ingredients in the alcohol, and an enzyme problem thats not breaking down the alcohol. I used to love a cold beer on a hot summer day and have also drank more than my share of Bourbon and Cokes, but I developed the same problem as the rest of you about 10 years ago. I've found that clear alcohol like Vodka, Rum, and Gin are o.k. (especially the better brands), but dark liquor is no good (i.e. Bourbon, Scotch,etc...). I suspect it's the way they are made or the ingredients used, although I can't confirm that. Occasionally I can get away with a cold Coors Light (very occasionally), but Bud, Miller, Heineken are no-no's. Anything that is "Malty" I've got to stay away from. I've also developed other allergies to pet dander, dust, grasses, mold that I never had before, although I don't know if that's related. Let me know if this helps and I will get back to you when I try the Pepcid trick.

                                                                                            1. I thought I had a reaction to alcohol, but when I read the contents of the alcohol labels, turns out I'm allergic to the sulfites in some kinds (cheap) of wines and even some beers. I react by having a sore neck and a feeling of my throat closing and/or numbness in my chest. This hasn't turned me off of alchol, but I read labels first! (After reading some of the replies on this board, I wonder if age has something to do with it too. I never had this when I was younger.)

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: love2eatndrink

                                                                                                Some years ago I read something that suggested that French wine (e.g. champagne) tended to contain sulfites, that Australian wine tended not to, and that American wine might or might not depending on the style of wine the winemaker was emulating. It's an additive, you see, not inherent in the grape (sorta like caffeine in soda). And because some people do have sulfite sensitivity, most wine bottles say "Warning: May Contain Sulfites," which is nicely unillustrative because it's used everywhere.

                                                                                                Not that anybody here should be relying on my imperfect memory, but I'm also not sure whether that answers the original question. Rosacea could be part of it (this is different from alcohol dehydrogenase deficit that makes alcohol more toxic for longer in those who have the deficit), or an allergy to an additive in the mixed drink (e.g. to a botanical in gin, although there wasn't any gin here). Or it could be something about the champagne and vodka - crappy versions of either can & does have odd effects on undergraduates.

                                                                                                I suggest more testing!

                                                                                                1. re: love2eatndrink

                                                                                                  I get the 'blotch' all over very rarely but intensely even when I drink beer with the Bavarian puity law limiting ingedients to barley, water, hops, yeast. Could yeast rather than sulfites be the cause?

                                                                                                2. I've read down through the answers and haven't seen any reply that referred to sulfites that are used in wines and beer as preservatives. My symptoms were a terrific sinus headache that seemed to last for days. I thought I was allergic to scented candles I was burning but it turns out it was the sulfites in wine. I also have the same reaction to the diet softdrinks, but that is caused by Phenylalaine. Your reaction and mine are certainly different but it would be interesting to see if the drinks that caused your reaction contained sulfites.

                                                                                                  1. It's called "Asian Flush", but it isn't confined to Asians. My mother (Ashkenazi Jewish) suffered from it for years. Since having cancer, and losing a dramatic amount of weight, it doesn't seem to bother her and she can have a beer or two without turning red and itching.

                                                                                                    She never found an effective "treatment" for it. Benadryl and the like made no difference, so she was the designated driver for oh, 30 years?

                                                                                                    1. Hi reallyrednails! I'm a 27 y/o german/irish male and this happens to me as well. I'm a social drinker and I've been experiencing it for about 3 years now. When it started i had no idea what it was, it didn't matter what i had to drink or what i had to eat that day, it would just attack randomly, but only if i were consuming alcohol (and like i said it could be any drink like vodka/or beer/or wine). My symptoms are the same, i first get blotchy on my face/neck area only, then it feels like it is on fire, particularly my cheeks, and i get really short of breath. I've consulted a dermatologist about the problem (as my roommate is one, so it was easy) and she told me that there are many ethnicities and profiles that just develop allergies to yeast/yeas products as they get older. So she said that there really is no cure for it, but when it occurs it is advised that you must stop drinking (of course)... and i usually just go outside or to an area where i can get fresh air... and i will also drink plenty of water. I hope that helps!!

                                                                                                      1. Similar issues & roseacea possibilities drove me to try a no-fermented-stuff/no-yeast diet, and it has really made me feel much better. I'm trying yeasted breads again to see how it goes, and I miss the complex flavors in Parmigiano Reggiano, but I don't miss the flush and itch/tingle of wines & other aged cheeses.
                                                                                                        Try going without for a few weeks and see how you feel!

                                                                                                        1. Pay close attention to when you eat certain oils (found in chips or crackers) or certain seafoods (especially with wine).

                                                                                                          I have not been able to identify exactly what combination makes me get flush in the face, hives/redness on my chest - and in the most severe instance, I was doubled over gasping for oxygen while at a wedding (luckily I made it to the bathroom and had benydryl with me). It was Greek red wine if that is any help.

                                                                                                          Anyway, fish and wine can make a problem and chips and any alcohol can be a problem. Not every time. Unfortunately it is hard to narrow it down when the ingredients on the chip bag says, "may contain any one or more of the following oils: canola, olive, all vegetable, peanut, sesame, blah blah blah"

                                                                                                          So, I stick with steak when I drink and never eat chips when I drink. For what it's worth.

                                                                                                          Oh one more thing!!!! MSG and alcohol is a big NO NO NO! Better have your epi-pen.

                                                                                                          1. I am 22 years old. I used to never have reactions to alcohol.....i used to get "warm" but I never broke out. Since about age 20, every other time I drink alcohol, I break out. {I get hot, my face gets beat red and anywhere I have a pimple...back, neck etc becomes bright red!} ............any suggestions?!!! I have tried switching liquours which sometimes randomley works (going from hard liqour to beer or wine) is there and allergy to alcohol????????? whats up please help. This never used to happen, now it a common occurance. Thanks ---Karl

                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: z28kb

                                                                                                              Hello everyone,

                                                                                                              I am 36 years old and, like many of you, use to drink alcoholic beverages without a reaction when I was between the ages of 21 - 26. Now I get severe reactions no matter what alcoholic beverage I attempt to drink. Because of this, I had to figure out a way to enjoy a nice cold beer or wine without the reaction. For me, taking benedryl 15 minutes before drinking the alcoholic beverage eliminates the side effects.
                                                                                                              I am not a doctor, nor am I telling you what to do; however, I am informing you that it works for me. If you are thinking about trying benedryl, consult your doctor first to make sure it is right for you! .........-Jim

                                                                                                              1. re: z28kb

                                                                                                                Hey z28kb unless I've missed something your post is the first to mention that any blemish on the body goes bright red. This is identical for me, any old scar or blemish turns pink-like my blotchy face, I also get a throbbing headache! The frustrating thing is that I just can't find a common denominator. The first time I ever experienced it I was about 27 and had raw tuna, I also happened to have several glasses of wine! I put it down to the fish as had never tried it before whereas me and wine are good friends! However, since then it has become so regular but every time it happens I have eaten or drunk something different! I had almost decided it was when I eat nuts and drink white wine - which I'm still contemplating as the last two times it happened I've been drinking white wine and eating some sort of nut, cashews on one occasion and almonds on another. Although thinking about it on some occasions I've just been drinking-no food at all so again that theory is out the window! Whatever it is I'm allergic to the last time it flared up and my head was pounding, face all purple and blotchy, I took one piritin and two ibuprofens with a small bottle of water and within half an hour was back to normal! The mystery goes on.........

                                                                                                                1. re: milliemurphy

                                                                                                                  Wow, I thought I was the only one that did this stuff! I am 49 and have been experiencing this for 10 to 12 years. Like most of you, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. It does not seem to matter what kind of alcohol it is but it seems to happen more often if I drink 2 or 3 fairly quickly. It comes on very quickly, I get very hot and get rapid shallow breathing. I have found that the Pepcid works for me. if I forget to take it before I start drinking and have an attack, I take a Pepcid and about 3 Tums. In about 30 minutes I usually feel fine. I have had a couple of episodes where it really scared me though. I was wondering if any of you have experienced this. After the flushed feeling and rapid breathing started, all of a sudden I collapsed and could not lift my arms or legs. I became extremely weak and had slurred speach. I felt like all the muscles in my body just quit working. After 20 minutes or so, I slowly started feeling ok again. This actually scared me so badly, I told my husband that if it ever happens again I want him to call 911.

                                                                                                                  1. re: shogan

                                                                                                                    I know this is late compared to the last post, but I just looked up my symptoms and found this board. Does anyone experience the heat and redness of certain body parts? When I drink any alcohol ( used to be red wine only) my left ear gets hot and beat red and I get that sunburn look on my nose and cheeks. This is new to me -probably within the last year, around the time I turned 40. My left foot also gets hot?!
                                                                                                                    Anyboby with exact areas that turn red - and what did you do for it? I have never had a skin problem before. I was going to see an accupucturist to see where the heat is coming from. Any suggestions welcomed!

                                                                                                                    1. re: ahs70433

                                                                                                                      I am not a doctor, and no, I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Prescription Singulair might be the solution to these episodes.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ahs70433

                                                                                                                        I know this is many months after your post, but there is something called red ear syndrome that you might want to look into. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/87...

                                                                                                                      2. re: shogan

                                                                                                                        I never had a problem with drinking until I was 22. I will be 25 in a couple months and it is progressively getting worse. My redness and itching will mostly happen on the ears, but I get an extremely rapid heart rate and rapid and shallow breathing. This happens on my first drink. This will keep me up all night sometimes. Sometimes if I keep drinking I get past it and am tipsy enough to fall asleep, but the next day my heart rate and shallow breathing pick up again all day, sometimes causing me to hyperventelate. That is when I can't move my arms and legs either. This is so severe we have called 911. All of this is the day after and I don't know why or how to stop it.

                                                                                                                  2. I have had this happen too. It happens to me just after a few sips. My heart rate does not speed up or anything but my face will turn red and feel hot and my arms also will turn red. I hope that it is not dangerous, I guess I will have to ask my doctor.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: nate192

                                                                                                                      I have had a few incidents now and I'm getting concerned. I have been drinking for the past six years and didn't have any problems up to this year. Actually I never ever got a hangover until this year also. I don't drink heavy and it is a good thing I don't. It seems that when I drink my body isn't doing what it should with it. As the year is progressing the amount of alcohol i consume at party's or what not gets smaller and I still have the same reaction. A few days ago I had four drinks total in a four to 5 hour span and the same think happened when I had 8 in the 9 hour span last week and the 20 in 9 hours 9 months ago. At this point i would be happy with a red mask. I start convulsing and not breathing, my pulse hasn't been checked for obvious reasons, my bal goes haywire, My temp goes up and I start getting pick. There seems to be no rhymes or reason to this. I am told it might be an allergy but I don't know. Any ideas with this?

                                                                                                                    2. I also have noticed that when I first start drinking any kind of alcohol beverage, I get rosy cheeks and feel hot, but it I eat right away sometimes it will go away, but usually by the time I have finished my drink and have another the rosy cheeks is gone.. to me it's annoying specially at parties. So your not alone. I have noticed with me it's worse with beer and wine, not so bad with hard alcohol.

                                                                                                                      1. My mom had a similar effect after she was diagnosed with diabetes.

                                                                                                                        1. OP here....2 years later almost to the day. I thought I'd post an update:

                                                                                                                          I went wine tasting in Napa a few months ago. The first stop was at Gloria Ferrar Champagne cellars; had a few sips of something lovely, felt my face get warm and stopped drinking the champagne. Next stop (after lunch) was at Coppola; I drank about 6 different wines (both white and red) and didn't get any reaction. The third and last stop was at Opus One, drank almost 1/2 glass of wine and no reaction.

                                                                                                                          About a month ago I went out for dinner with a client, and decided to have a mixed drink (Screwdriver) instead of risking a reaction from wine and my face got very warm. I usually don't drink anything other than wine but now I see I can get a reaction from almost any alcohol. I had actually forgotten about the Toxic Waste drink, remembering only my experiences with wine. I decided what the heck and finished the drink anyway, and gradually was cooler by the end of the dinner. I drank a lot of water too, to cool down.

                                                                                                                          I went to a business lunch about 2 weeks ago, had two sips of wine (I forget if it was white or red) and felt warm right away.

                                                                                                                          So, I'm glad, sort of, that I'm not the only one who gets these reactions, and thanks to all you wonderful Chowhounds for providing me with your feedback and suggestions. I realli appreciate it.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: rednails

                                                                                                                            I'm 67 years old and non-Asian. Can no longer drink beer (cluster headaches) or wine (asthmatic reaction). Also get red mask. Now a simple rum and coke triggers dizziness and shortness of breath. Tried benadryl before drinks and get fatigued. Only bedrest seems to help. Guess my system has finally said "enough alcohol". So, I'm going to stop unless a cure can be found.

                                                                                                                            1. re: edyak

                                                                                                                              I sometimes have the red face reaction along with jaw pain. I probably have one to two margaritas a month at the same restaurant, and the last two times, the bottoms of my feet have started seriously itching. I guess this is an allergic reaction.

                                                                                                                          2. I am so happy to hear I am not the only one! About a year ago, I would drink rum or tequila and get red cheeks, and a blotchy neck and chest. I thought it was hard alcohol and citrus. Well a year later, as I get older(36) I drink anything and I turn red and blotchy! It sucks!!! I thought I was safe with Wine or Beer.. Now it happens with that also.. Maybe it's my age, or something. It goes away after a while but when I am out it is terribly embarrassing! I leave right away. It is also now spreading to my arms.. I don't get shortness of breath or anything but I get the reaction of "Oh my God, what is wrong with you?" I was looking at a post from a few years ago and wondering if the Pepcid really works... Any help??

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: Kimann220

                                                                                                                              It's a common reaction. Read my post above. There is a fair amount of evidence that you can "train" the enzymes to work correctly by taking small sips of alcohol rather frequently. Drinking less frequently actually makes the problem worse.

                                                                                                                            2. ok so i get some of those same symptoms and im only 21 now i get really worried and i have people tell my that i may be allergic to alcohol! I get flush in te face most of the time ...not to red....and then this last time i drank i broke out in a red hot rash on my arms.. it scared me and i stopped drinking! is it safe for me to still drink??

                                                                                                                              1. I'm glad I found this forum as well. I'm a 28 yo Caucasian of German/Austrian and Irish descent, and I first began noticing these symptoms about 18 months ago. I have the same redness on my face and neck, sometimes spreading to my hands. My head feels hot and my throat tightens. I feel pressure in my eyes, and I usually experience some nasal discomfort. This can happen regardless of whether I'm drinking wine, beer or liquor. When I drink, it's usually either Guinness or vodka tonics, and I always drink the same brand vodka. It don't always get the symptoms--probably less than 25% of the times I drink; but I also normally stay well hydrated. I noticed in another post that hydrating helped another person, so I will try that first, next time I have symptoms.

                                                                                                                                It's quite annoying. My entire face doesn't turn red, I get peppered with bright red blotches, which make me look like a camouflaged beet. At any rate, best of luck to everyone else who's a victim of this nastiness.

                                                                                                                                1. I am not a doctor or a fermentation scientist but have been an alcohol industry professional for the last 15 years. I feel it is important to continue to highlight certain things we DO know and avoid confustion in regard to some things that "might" be causitive that are actually just correlative.

                                                                                                                                  It might be informative to first note that if we truly understood the multitude of ways that alcohol effects humans we'd have a cure for the hangover by now.

                                                                                                                                  When we drink, there are so many vectors involved, it is very very hard to know what things are actually at work, especially if you don't otherwise have similar reactions in non-alcohol related situations. Further complicating things are the situations where you DON'T have the reaction.

                                                                                                                                  Invididuals have different thresholds for what makes them sick. For some one to have a reaction to something there needs to be a viable amount of that thing present. i.e. smelling the hippie-lettuce at a concert won't get you high but hot-boxing your big brothers van to Spicoli-esque proportions might make you think twice about trying to balance your check book in the next few hours. So how much of a thing there is, means a lot.

                                                                                                                                  But then there is the issue of a "catalyst." Meaning, maybe you can eat all the processed meat you want and sulfites don't bother you but add in the impurities that come from oak ageing and those two things together make you break out. And as long as we are on sulfites...MariaLorraine already mentioned this but it bears repeating--it is unlikely this reaction comes simply from sulfites. For those unfortunate few who react negatively to ANY level of sulfites, they know this not from drinking alcohol but from all sorts of different exposures--and this is most likely in asthmatics (yet another vector involved) and not people who just happen to have super-sensitivity to sulfites. Without going all cork-dork on you, let me suffice to say that all grapes produce sulfites and unless a very invasive (read turns the wine to crap) process is used, to remove them all wines from anywhere in the world have sulfites. But yet again, we are back to talking about viable amounts. A generally accepted level is 10 ppm, below that and it is very uncommon to have a reactions--above that level is when wine bottles must carry a warning.

                                                                                                                                  But as has also been noted, there are other things at play. Externalities that have nothing to do with alcohol can have a significant role in how you react to that first Alabama Slammer. Stress, diet, rest and various health issues can contribute to certain reactions. And most importantly in this particular case, the amount of dehydrogenase your body produces. Men will tend to produce more than women, Aisians will tend to produce less than caucasians etc., but these are just tendecies. There are Asian women who can drink with the best of us. But let's just take this to the extreme for the sake of example: a 90 lbs asthmatic Asian woman who has not eaten for three days and is stressed out of her mind about the fact that she has just been diagnosed with an immune system related disease and has slept three hours last night is probably much more likely to have some sort of less than ideal reaction to an Irish Car Bomb. You could make her close to menopause if you really wanted to gild the lilly.

                                                                                                                                  And we're not even finished yet. There are all sorts of impurities in alcohol. On purpose. In addition to fruit, yeast, or grain derived substances, there are natural food chemicals and the impurities that come from ageing the product in wood. Now once again, there needs to be a viable amount and it may only cause a reaction in conjuction with the presense of a "catalyst." I had a colleague who got a slight flush whenever there was a wine that was aged in American oak, in any quantity. For the poor wine salesperson who was ashamed of using American oak barrels, there was no escaping his cheeks.

                                                                                                                                  So there are just sooooo many variables involved it is hard to know what or why. And, when faced with a relatively simple solution--just don't drink--doctors are often hesitant to spend the time needed to figure out why you turn pink when you drink. Especially if pink doesn't kill you.

                                                                                                                                  So I leave you all with the famous Latin phrase often used to teach basic logic. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. After it therefore becuase of it.
                                                                                                                                  But it is used as an example of "flawed" logic.

                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                    Adding my name to the list of people who experience some kind of reaction to drinking alcohol: My face, neck and arms turn hot, red, and itchy. Therea are so many uncontrolled variables at play that I haven't been able to pin down the exact culprit. It seems to be mostly red wine, that could be because I drink that more than other alcohol. It also seems to happen more with cheap wine. I thought it was sulfites but I tried the wines that claimed to be sultfite free and that didn't change anything. I'm not Asian.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: taos

                                                                                                                                      Found this thread by a fluke and yes, add me to the list. 49 year old white female. I started flushing and feeling heat in my face about a year ago when I drank wine. Now it can be any alcoholic drink and to make matters worse (or better, depending on your orientation!) it doesn't always happen....even with identical drinks. I am going to start a drink and food diary to find any possible correlations and I hope that many of you do the same so that we might find similarities. Yes, it's embarrassing to have people constantly commenting on my red face.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                      You make some good points but in the case of sulfites they are cumulative and it takes about three days for the body to get rid of them.

                                                                                                                                      If you have a sulfite allergy you will not be able to consume much of anything containing it. Reactions occur well below the 10 PPM mark. Allergies need no catalyst.

                                                                                                                                      Sulfite sensitivities or intolerance are more than likely another story.

                                                                                                                                      I have searched high and low for the supposed sulfite free wine and have never found it. Unless you mean distilled vinegar-which doesn't get me drunk but man is it cheap! : )

                                                                                                                                      Back on track-if you are allergic to bees what would it matter if you are stressed,tired,etc when you are stung? There is no catalyst or impurities on the bee stinger that suddenly provoke the reaction. Anaphylactic shock is anaphylactic shock. Same with any other true allergy.

                                                                                                                                    3. yup same problem - god I thought i was wierd but theres lots of ppl with the blochy red itchy burning face rash...sooo anoying! anyway i have had this problem for as long as I can remember and on some days i can drink and im fine and other times i get the reaction! I have experimented and in my case not saying this applies to all - its what i eat during the day!! If i eat bread potato rice ect (carbs mainly) there is no way i will be able to drink, however if i eat salad and whatever meat and avoid carbs 99% of the time I am fine and can drink LOTS! so might be worth a try...good luck! :) MM

                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: mmusic26

                                                                                                                                        Must admit I haven't been keeping track. Although...I *have* been using a glass or two of wine to bring on the flush during these cold winter days...It's like a built-in heater!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: mmusic26

                                                                                                                                          My allergic symptoms to alcohol is quite severe: red itchy skin from neck down, all the way to my feet. In one worst case, the skin abnormality is so intense that there is very few spot in my body that is free from it. My whole body became unbearably heated and when the itchy skin swelled and became quite painful when touched. I was hospitalized for two or three days for it, feeling like dying. But strangely, my face is always free from symtoms. In mostl cases, it is not just a mild discomfort. It takes at least two to three days to recover, and during the days I am very reluntant to move my body because it generates lots of discomfort.
                                                                                                                                          I have this problem since I was a kid. As far as I remember, red wine and beers were the culprit. Normally, a 2/3 of a glass bottle of beer is the limit to be safe. And a few sip of red wine is ok, but a glass of red wine will put me down for sure. Because the adversity is so strong that I have the drinking phobia and I am afraid to try other kind of alcohol. So I do not if liquer would cause the same problem or not.
                                                                                                                                          I have been thinking I am allergic to alcohol, but recently I have the similar symptoms without drinking alcohol. So it got me thinking that maybe it is certain kind of ingredient in acoholic drinks that has cause so much discomfort. However, a blood test I did last year revealed that I am not allegic to anything. The doctor in Toronto told me that all my reaction is just alcohol intolerance and no big deal. I just do not believe her since such a severe symptom should be an allergy. At one point I felt like dying. Food intolerance can be that intense.
                                                                                                                                          I really want to know how to find the culprit. I am healthy and young, The problem is consistant since I was a kid. Now I am 30. I am an Asian.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sudongyue

                                                                                                                                            sudongyue - reading your blog was like reading my own story, and many others on this site too. I've spent the last 75 minutes reading thru this forum & found it really interesting.

                                                                                                                                            I'm sorry this blog is large but I'm really curious to find a cure!!!

                                                                                                                                            I get the incredibly itchy palms & feet (not all the time) which generally gives me hives that night or the next day (not all the time) Last week I had a few too many drinks on a Saturday night & when I woke up on the Sunday my forehead was raised, my scalp felt stretched & on fire, and I had the blotches on my inner arms & calves/inner legs.

                                                                                                                                            Christmas of 06 through to Feb 07 I suffered Glandular Fever. Prior to this I had no alergies apart from cat fur. Our work Christmas party of 06 was a buffet dinner which included prawns - all through my life I have been a seafood junkie. I had 4 king prawns with my dinner that night as well as consuming alcohol. Monday morning I woke up to a completely swollen face, my left eye was almost shut & my right was on its way. I looked like I had downsyndrome. It was a sudden seafood allergy. I tried 1 tiny prawn Christmas 08 & the next day my face was all scaly for a day.

                                                                                                                                            June 07 my sister got married & I was a bridesmaid. While we were getting ready @ my house my feet were really itchy but didn't think anything of it as I hadn't experienced this before. Later, we were having the professional photos taken in the park. We had already had 2 champagnes (which I don't generally drink) & all of a sudden my ear started to burn & my lips went numb. I still looked normal, so continued to drink scotch & coke at the wedding. When I got home, the backs of my calves were red, raised & burning. I took some Polaramine (Aussie antihistamines) & went to bed. The next morning my legs were still red with hives but not as bad.

                                                                                                                                            Since then I've had allergy scratch tests which come back positive to cat hair, seafood & dairy.

                                                                                                                                            My itchy raised hives still come up on my arms, scalp & legs when I consume alcohol (mainly scotch, sometimes vodka, baileys, beer) but not all the time! I've had the hives after eating pizza, and subway without grog.

                                                                                                                                            I've been slack & never kept a food diary which I think might be my next step - however I'm leaning more & more towards sulphites ... or wheat. You read so many different things on the net & it's so hard to know what's right or not.

                                                                                                                                            I hope this thread keeps up with suggestions etc as I'm about to bookmark it to check it occasionally :) Good luck peeps

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sudongyue

                                                                                                                                              Sudongyue, your symptoms sound like mine. I get itchy hives on all parts of my body (depending on how much alcohol I drank) but my face is never affected.
                                                                                                                                              I did not drink alcohol until I turned 16. Since that first drink, I have had the same reaction every time. For the last 20+ yrs, I tried different alcoholic beverages in varying quantities and all cause a reaction.
                                                                                                                                              The itchiness & hives usually doens't appear until about 2hrs after I drank. So the worst reactions I've had were from younger years who I thought I didn't feel anything after a drink and assumed I might have "gotten over it" as friends always suggest. So I'd drink more and then 2 hrs later, break out in rashes all over my body. I've now figured out I can have 1/2 a wine, or equivalent alcohol amount of that in any beverage, before the reaction will start to kick in.

                                                                                                                                              My family and I noticed the similarity between my hives to a heat rash.
                                                                                                                                              Since alcohol makes your body release heat, and the hives I get would make my skin feel really hot, we believe that it is my body's inability to release that heat that causes the hives. I never would sweat, flush or feel warm when I drank as other people do when they drank. Only my ears get warm and turn red. Also, the rash always starts with my underarms, inside elbow, and other parts that are usually warmer anyways. Also, my skin would feel so hot, but I feel cold inside. So I'd want to wear more warm clothes, but the warm clothes would make my skin more itchy. So, I wear light t-shirts or tank tops to minimize the hot & itchy feeling, but I also recall that for more than half of my allergic episodes, I ended up catching a cold before the rash goes away.
                                                                                                                                              Coincidentally, I also have naturally amazing skin. Everyone who meets me compliments me on it (no one else in my family has it, and no one else I've ever met has this same extreme allergic reaction). I have practically no visible pores on my face and rarely have had acne through out my entire life (the rare occasion I get a tiny pimple, it is due to extreme high stress).
                                                                                                                                              These above factors make me believe it is my body's or skin's inability to release heat, which alcohol normally causes our bodies to do,

                                                                                                                                              Since I am not a big fan of alcoholic drinks anyways (it's just a social pressure thing to me that I no longer cave into), I stay away from it. Also, as I'm getting older, I prefer to keep my almost perfect skin, rather than to risk any possible scarring if any rashes decide to get worse. My doctor friends all recommend that one should just stay away from ANYTHING that makes your body react negatively (whether you're technically "allergic" or "intolerant" of it). You never know when your body will overreact just that one time and cause life-changing damage to your body, or worse, death.

                                                                                                                                              Living in northern california and being a foodie, I do often try sips of wines and cocktails to familiarize myself with tastes other foodies talk about. 2 sips an evening never caused me any problem. And I know no one who thinks ill of me for not wanting to get an allergic attack that last approximately 3 weeks, from the start of the rash, to the drying out of the rash skin and its peeling off. They appreciate having me as a reliable designated driver.

                                                                                                                                              Good luck to you.

                                                                                                                                              p.s. I am female, chinese. Have 4 siblings, parents & uncles & aunts from both sides of the family, and none of whom have this allergy.

                                                                                                                                              We're all individuals...our bodies are made differently with different capabilities. Accept it as it is and treat it well. Don't keep using drugs to try to make it act like other people's bodies. You never know the long term effects of any drug on your particular body.

                                                                                                                                              p.p.s. I don't seem to be doing this "edit" function right. it's repeating the entire msg. sorry for that. this is my first time commenting on this page.

                                                                                                                                          2. OP here again. I just saw an article in today's New York Times about medical research that says there is a link between this effect and cancer:


                                                                                                                                            I drink very little now, not because of this problem, just because I don't really drink much any more. I'd rather get my calories from food.....and I don't have any calories to spare.

                                                                                                                                            1. This happened to me 4 times in my early twenties. Twice after a couple of sips of wine, twice with no clear reason. Then it stopped.
                                                                                                                                              I'm 28 now, and it just happened twice in one week! No wine involved though. Both times in the morning, both after having grapefruit for breakfast when I usually have eggs, and both times I was a little stressed out. I also put a tsp of apple cider vinegar in my water in the mornings.
                                                                                                                                              I don't know anything about chemistry, so I'm not sure if the acetic acid from the vinegar plus the acetalahyde from the ripe grapefruit together would cause the flushing, but it seems reasonable. In any case, the same reaction can be brought on without alcohol, at least for me.

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: eloopy

                                                                                                                                                I FOUND SOMETHING THAT WORKS; the only thing that works for me is Zyrtec-D. It's over the counter, but you have to go and ask the pharmacist for it and they'll get it for you behind the counter. I think it's more so the pseudoephedrine in it that helps. If I take a Zyrtec-D I can drink pretty much anything and any quantity and have NO red, warm blotches at all. Definitely worth a try if you want it stopped while drinking. I take it earlier in the day for sinus problems anyway. If you try it, take it at least an hour or two before you drink so the pill has a chance to work.

                                                                                                                                              2. Please forgive me if I am re-posting. Alcohol is a vaso-dilator, meaning it opens up your blood vessels and can cause a flush (flush=symptoms you described). This exacerbated by any and all medications you are on, prescribed or OTC; vitamins and supplements and if you have or pre-disposed to any what's called connective tissue disorder like lupus, MS, MG.... Check your medicine cab and see your dr

                                                                                                                                                1. I'm a 24 year old male, American, and also experience many of these same problems. Blotchy red face/neck, noticable change in core temperature, and only after half a drink or less. It doesnt matter what i drink, or where i drink, i'd have to say 3 out of every 4 times i drink this happens to me. I workout on a regular basis, and have paid pretty close attention to my nutrition and supplement intake. Whatever happens this is horrifically embarrassing, becuase before i feel buzzed, i just feel uncomfortably hot. There is this supplement, and it is called "MilkThistle", available at longs, walmart, walgreens etc. It costs somewhere around $12 dollars (US) for 120 pills, and is a supplement designed to stimulate liver function (Mostly cellular), though mostly unproven medically. In my own experiences, it says to take 1-3 times daily with food. What i do is take it once in the morning and once with dinner daily, and on days when i drink, i like to take 2 pills a half hour or so before i drink with at least 16-24 ounces of water. I also drink my first few drinks slowly, that way i pace myself as to hopefully deter the outbreaks. Please dont quote me on any of this, i am just trying to help everyone out from my own experiences because it is so damn embarrassing when it happens at a social or even work event. I have found that it doesnt erase the red altogether, but cuts down the blotchy red "hive look on my cheeks, neck and chest.

                                                                                                                                                  I just made it back from a drinking binge in vegas, and only had the blotchy red spots 1 time in 4 nights drinking all sorts of liquors, beers, etc. Not perfect, but drastically improved.

                                                                                                                                                  I also noticed, have one small drink (slowly) a half hour before my buddies walked in the room, my body adjusted better and deterred the red. IM NOT A DOCTOR, ACTUALLY A BARTENDER, BUT I'D RATHER BE LUCKY THAN GOOD ANYDAY!!

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JBlodgett

                                                                                                                                                    well iod like to start with the fact that im only 17, I drank before no problem but one day when drinking champaign at a family event I had about a glass and my face went bright red like i had reallyy bad sunburn and I got really hot it passed after about 15-20 min. The second time after this event I had maybe the equivlent of only 2 shots and my face got red blotchy spots on it, along with my upper chest and down my arms but no past my elbows and got very hot this only lasted about 15 min. Both times I barley had anything so i think I will refrain from drinking till im 18 when I will go to a doctor, im affraid I will drink alot and have a worse reaction. Iv never drank alot just more casualy and only really once every month at most. Im quiet aware im underage but id really like to know what is wrong, how to prevent it or if its serious before I or someone else does something stupid unkowingly and something reallyy bad happens.

                                                                                                                                                  2. OP again here...another reaction, this time drinking a Caipirhina. Cachaca is the only alcohol in the drink. Same reaction, within 5 minutes of drinking maybe 2 oz, at the most. And of course, my face flamed up right in front of a client.

                                                                                                                                                    Within the last month, I drank Frangelico (twice, and a hefty portion both times), and Pinot Grigio a few times as well. No problems with either drink.

                                                                                                                                                    This is soooo frustrating!!!!

                                                                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rednails

                                                                                                                                                      Could be something else in combination with the alcohol, you might have to start a food diary with lots of notes on where you are, what kind of mood, what you ate around the same time etc. Maybe client anxiety, for example, or some appetizers you were eating at the same time?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                        A food diary is a good idea but would be a real PITA as this reaction happens very infrequently. No anxiety yesterday, and hadn't eaten anything for a few hours (and nothing out of the ordinary). IIRC all the other times, same thing--no unusual food or anxiety (which I am pretty cognizant of).

                                                                                                                                                        But still a good idea anyway, thanks!!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rednails

                                                                                                                                                          I'm going to guess your redness is caused by toxic alcohols (congeners) and impurities in the cachaca. Congeners are toxic alcohols -- methanol, amyl alcohol, butyl alcohol -- that occur in spirits in addition to ethyl alcohol when spirits are made quickly and inexpensively. Congeners and impurities are usually found in spirits made from the entire distillation process, in contrast to spirits made from only the middle distillation process (the "heart"), which has the fewest toxins and impurities. "Middle" spirits are more expensive because the spirits from the "heads" and "tails" are discarded. Also, spirits that are distilled several times have fewer congeners because more impurities get discarded in successive distillations. And, again, more distillations means more expensive. The toxins and impurities in inexpensive spirits could easily be the source of your redness (and perhaps feeling warm) immediately after drinking. It's rather common. The Frangelico and Pinot Grigio didn't cause a reaction because they had fewer toxic alcohols and impurities. Read more here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5979... and reactions to wine here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6800...

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                            I've learned to avoid cheap alcohol because I always get a headache the next day.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                              That's interesting, useful info. What about the Gloria Ferrar champagne? And vodka, but I don't know what brand it was. Those were both 2 years ago. So basically, I should always go with top-shelf brands?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rednails

                                                                                                                                                                Are you Asian, by any chance? Have you read the posts above about Asians having a genetic variation in processing alcohol that produces redness immediately?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                  No. Caucasian, of Eastern Europe (Jewish) ancestry. I read those posts and thought it an interesting coincidence but absolutely no ties to Asia at all.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: rednails

                                                                                                                                                          When I was in college, this happened to me occasionally. I would get a bright-red flush on my face and sometimes on my chest, which felt like a substantial sunburn. It would last perhaps 20-30 minutes as I recall. At the time, I was also sensitive to sulfites, particularly the potassium metabisulfite used in pickled peppers. These would give me an asthma tightness in my chest, but no flush.

                                                                                                                                                          I was told that Red Hook beer has no sulfites and that most other beers do. (This was quite a while ago). I never experienced the flushing with Red Hook. Over time (years), the problem went away completely.

                                                                                                                                                          I don't even know if these two symptoms are related, but maybe it would be of some help to you. You could try eating some pepperoncini peppers or pickled vegetables preserved with potassium metabisulfite to see what happens. If you have asthma or other allergies, I'd have some albuterol near by or do it in the doctor's office.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                            Sigh....I've eaten pickled vegetables....no reaction.

                                                                                                                                                            Appreciate the input. Either I will have to give up alcohol completely, or just remember to take one sip only and wait for a reaction. That could be a big waste of money, depending on the circumstances.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rednails

                                                                                                                                                              Lots of stuff about this on Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                              Many non-Asians have this immediate flushing after drinking. It's caused by the enzyme dehydrogenase metabolizing alcohol too quickly into acetaldehyde -- which causes the redness and flushing as it builds up in the body. Then, the acetaldehyde (and the redness and flushing) linger because of the too-slow metabolism of acetaldehyde into the benign acetic acid. So your alcohol metabolism may be both too fast -- in its conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde -- and too slow -- in its conversion of acetaldehyde into acetic acid. BTW, this is not an allergic reaction.

                                                                                                                                                              But there's good news...from Melanie Wong:
                                                                                                                                                              "Actually the flush comes from the build up of excess amounts of acetaldehyde. It's not a lack of enzymes to convert alcohol to the more toxic acetaldehyde, but instead a super-efficient ability to make this transformation. The imbalance of this reaction with the speed of the subsequent breakdown of acetaldehyde to acetic acid is the problem. Some gastroenterologists I've talked to have alluded to the possiblity that the enzymes might be inducible, meaning that your liver can be "trained" to produce an appropriate amount if you have small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis."

                                                                                                                                                              As the comments in the thread referenced above, you can train your liver! You'll still have to watch out for the toxic alcohols and impurities in cheap wine and spirits, but those affect everybody.

                                                                                                                                                              Read more here:

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for all the info. I think I will just have to remember to always drink very, very cautiously, and stick to wine as I don't recall getting a reaction from wine. I don't drink alcohol often enough to even try to train my liver, tho it would be fun to try!

                                                                                                                                                                Appreciate all the comments.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                  This seems like the best info I've ready yet! As far as training the liver, what exactly is a small amount on a regular basis? A beer a day?

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: academy126

                                                                                                                                                                    Less than what triggers a reaction of course. Maybe an ounce or two of wine per day.
                                                                                                                                                                    Half a beer.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                      Have been trying this with a little wine during the week when I normally wouldn't be drinking. Any idea on a possible time frame to see some results from this training method?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: academy126

                                                                                                                                                                        I'd guess every body is different, but I'd just try a small amount a couple of times a week until you don't get a reaction. Try it over 6 weeks and see what happens.

                                                                                                                                                          2. I just recently developed this same problem with the red blotches and I get tight in the chest. I also noticed that if I was having a reaction, drink water for half an hour or so, then I could go back and drink as much as I wanted without a reaction. I'm 36 years old and have been a drinker since I was 18. I never had a problem until recently. Ive never even had an allergic reaction to anything in my life. It started at random now its starting to happen every time I drink, which admittedly, is just about everyday, and I only drink Vodka and OJ. So since reading these posts, I decided to try Claritin-D. I took it an hour before I drank and had absolutely no problem. I do wonder what the underlying problem is, if it's a sign of some other health issue somewhere or if its just some sort of adult onset allergy. If anyone knows what that might be I would appreciate the input!

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: drinkinbuddy

                                                                                                                                                              My first allergic reaction was when I was about 18 years old. Christmas Day, I made my brother a mixed drink of all sorts and took a sip. I broke out in hives (or got all red), my Mom gave me benadryl and I slept the rest of the day. I didn't brake out again until I was around 25-30. At first it was random, now it seems to happen all the time. I've noticed though, if I have a drink today, I will get red. If I have a drink tomorrow, I may not get red. Seems like I have to either become a alcoholic or not drink at all. lol. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person who experiences this. I'm not allergic to anything either...except alcohol. I even broke out one time taking NyQuil.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pocket626

                                                                                                                                                                If this is a alcohol processing issue, the body can be trained (see above). In that case, you wouldn't have an alcohol allergy (which is very rare). If it's a histamine/amine issue, the Claritin-Benadryl drugs will help (even half a pill before a dinner). Good luck.

                                                                                                                                                            2. I found this article and after years of looking into it, I figured this was very well contributed to. Enough so that I would put my efforts here... kudos, everyone for doing the same!

                                                                                                                                                              My family is of mixed bloods - while at bliss with one another, we're a mixed bag of "American-processed cheese" and we love our drinks! It appears that only my blood cousin (not my only one) has the same symptoms. But not a single soul in our family line-up looks similar, so this tells me that I won't be able to contribute a solid analysis based on lineage. Never-the-less, my blood cousin has the same symptoms and after reading your posts, I will look into his symptoms as well (asking him for similar reactions), seeing as he has claimed (according to family members in past) to have had similar allergic reactions to alcohol. Being of scientific mind, I have delved into this post, looking for non-biased, similar characteristics. Here's what I have found thus far:

                                                                                                                                                              1) Tequilla is the worst evoker of the symptoms for me. In particular, "Jose Quervo Espcial - Gold". Vodka comes a close second (sorry no particular brand here). I enjoy red wines and have only mild reactions with Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon (http://jerichowine.com/item.asp?PID=126)... a very tasty (and cheap!) Chillean cab for those out there that appreciate it. Available in the South at Ingles for around $10 per 1.5 liters - lol

                                                                                                                                                              2) In the worst cases (as they vary), the blotches are *very* pronounced and my wife was shocked to see my skin's reaction. Very similar to a lepard pattern (white dots amongst flush skin) with a flush face that makes me feel the blood pulsing.

                                                                                                                                                              3) In the worst cases, I have a very hard time breathing and whereas I have a mild case of asthma (mild enough not to know how to spell it - lol), I have a particularly hard time breathing (tightness of breath is the best way I, too, could describe it). I will state here (for your health benefit), that while I don't smoke weed regularly (and tobacco not at all), I do smoke weed about 4 times a year socially. I won't go into my political rant about this, as much as I might like to, rather I will say that when stoned... I seem to focus on my heartbeat moreso than most... a possible clue here?

                                                                                                                                                              4) For the public records, I am of Asian descent. I am about 1/8th Chinese, 1/8th Swedish with the rest falling under the following: Irish, Scotch, French, English, Cherokee, Hawaiian, and either black (African?) or eastern Indian (only photos will tell). The reason I put this is to put forth every possible variable in order to deduce the commonalities.

                                                                                                                                                              5) I eat a lot of frozen pizzas (I will defend the "American pizza pie" to my death! - lol) and have found that for whatever reason, my skin (particularly around the "web" areas of my fingers) reacts to either cheese, processed meats (armour vienna sausages) or mushrooms... not sure here... still narrowing it down. I hope this helps to the reduction of variables. We all have issues and it's my hopes that my humbleness will help you, brothers and sisters.

                                                                                                                                                              6) I really started having problems at or around 30. Intersting that this is common. I am now 34 years old and a male American (if that helps). We're gettin' old! It's gonna be something! ;) I will tell you on that note something that I've thought quietly about for some time... check-ups. Do it. Why not, right? They tell ya what you fear, then deal with it with your peers - laughing while popping a few back! They tell you that you're good to go... then recreate your life and count yourself amongst the lucky few! ;


                                                                                                                                                              7) Okay... so the personal stuff. Hopefully this helps a few of you out there. My family has a history of Heart disease. We die young. Balding = no problem. Jokes and longevity... well... Again... can't help you too much as we're a typical American family wherein I can't trace my family back to the freegin Mayflower. But... I can tell you that we die young due to work-related stress and have been known to wander into other psyche issues. Paranoia about one's health, I'm not certain is off the list.

                                                                                                                                                              8) Dehydration. Major issue with me. I don't like water. Don't just *not* like it... truly despise the stuff and if it weren't for the harshness of it, would proclaim an animosity for it. WHen I drink water, it feels like I'm drowning. A *very* intuitive (almost spookily so) Lady I dated said that there was something definately "Up" with my blood stream. Seeing as I don't drink water, I can't imagine what she's talking about - lol. Never-the-less, my finger nails will regularly turn purple in normal conditions (particularly in cold conditions). Come to think of it, I like salty foods and cold conditions. I guess the motif of this point is... water = bad for me. At least consciously. Take note if this is you, as well.

                                                                                                                                                              I hope this helps someone out there. I put this out sincerely as a fellow "dealing" rather than suffering with this situation. Catch me when I'm 40. lol I'll check on this every once in a while to see if I can further help you all. Thanks for posting your paths in life. Maybe there will one day be a common thread?

                                                                                                                                                              1. I am 36 and just started having this reaction as well. It is so frustrating and makes me freak out. The first it happened was from a specialty margarita and i actually thought a glare from a car ourside was burning my face. My face swelled up and i got very anxious not knowing what was happening. I initially thought it was the special ingrediant but then it happened from my usual drinks as well. I have not really noticed any tightness in the chest or racing heartbeat except for the panic I have from not knowing what is happening. I even thought maybe it was the onset of diabetes. After that first time I have gotten some level of heat in my face pretty much everytime i drink, only once or twice did i not notice it, which gives me hope, but last night i got it as bad as the first time from an ultra light beer. It is always after only a sip or two which seems crazy your body can react that harsh that fast. I do have eczema so I am wondering if it my medication because my skin is noticeable more bumpy since having the reactions. Someone mentioned it being a cause of "adult acne" looks like acne but is not. This is more concerning to me since they don't seem to go away. Anyone have any suggestions besides going to a dermatologist for the bumps? I will have to try the benadryl or pepcid

                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DINAINA

                                                                                                                                                                  From your symtoms, it sounds like you my have Rosacea. Ask your doctor for a prescription to Metrogel or Rosac, both are topically applied once a day after cleansing your face. Having suffered from this condition since my 30's (48 now) it took a long time and lot of trial and error to find a solution. Best course of treatment, Metrogel or Rosac, avoid alcohol, stress and spicy foods.

                                                                                                                                                                  While it never caused a severe problem, over the past four years I've noticed minor swelling around my lower eye lid area after consuming only one alcoholic beverage. The swelling would typically disappear over the next 24 to 48 hours. Then, out of the blue in April 2010 after a party I noticed light swelling on one side of my face, the next moring I woke to find severe swelling of my cheek and eye lids. After multiple visits to an Internist, E.N.T., Periodontist, Endodontist, CT Scan, Dermotologist, none could find a cause. Over a 2 month period I continued to experience swelling on either cheek and around my eyes, and had been prescribed Zpack, then Zpack and Prednisolone 4mg. The Zpack had no effect, but the Prednisolone appeared to work, however, since I had not yet made a connection between alcohol and facial swelling I continued to consume white wine and belgian beer and the effects of the medication appeared to be moderately effective.

                                                                                                                                                                  About 10 weeks into suffering from swelling the puzzeled my physicians and frustrated the hell out of me, I finally made the alcohol connection. So, having discovered the problem, I simply stopped drinking alcohol and for 6 weeks I had no recurrence. Then, out of no where, I wake up in the middle of the night after feeling my entire face beginning to swell. I couldn't understand what happened, the only thing I done differently was to have dinner at a friends home... I had no alcohol, then I thought OMG did they use wine to marinate the steak they served? A quick call in the morning confirmed there was no wine used, but there was white balsamic vinegar and white raison used in the salad... then, I thought what about the sushi roll I had at 3pm before going to my friends home for dinner, I'd completely forgotten that rice wine vinegar is used to prepare the sushi rice... a round of prednisolone took care of my facial swelling and 4 weeks later I haven't experienced problems from swelling. On July 26th I went to an allergist/immunologist and after a round of testing found that I'm also allergic to shrimp and vanilla. As an Executive Chef, it's difficult enough to discover I have an allergy/reaction to alcohol and some vinegars. But to add shrimp and vanilla further complicates my problem. The allergist prescribed prednisolone and epipens for back up... parkrangerolivia, I'd strongly recomment you carry an epipen with you when you eat out.

                                                                                                                                                                  Next week I have more testing with the allergist, however he suspects that I may have developed an enzyme deficiency and am not able to breakdown alcohol.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: BlueFineCatering

                                                                                                                                                                    Spot on. Alcohol, spicy food, exercise, hot weather, all are triggers for me. I look like a glowing red light. People stop to ask if I'm okay. Had an M.D. come up to me after a hike in Alaska and tell me that I needed emergency medical attention. I just pretty much ignore the whole thing.

                                                                                                                                                                2. I am a very frequent drinker 2-3 times a week, 10-15 beers sometimes mixing shots in. I randomly get very hot and blotchy, but can feel it coming. I get it whether its beer or spirits. To combat it, I drink 3 to 4 bottles of water fast, maybe even more when its ready to hit. I think it is a combination of allergies, lack of water, and an over supply of sugar. I am 6' and 220, and workout occasionally, so I don't think I am in that bad of shape. My buddy is allergic to beer-- the yeast in it makes him very ill the next morning, but not that night. As far as getting rid of hiccups, 2 full spoons of sugar and then chugging water, then holding your breath as long as you can, used this many times.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I think that the reaction that you and many of the posters are describing is a reaction to sulfites. I flush up after certain types of drinks and it is definitely a sulfite reaction. All wines, champaignes, wine coolers, as well as certain type of drink mixers and beers will do it. Be careful as these reactions can worsen very quickly and many foods and medications contain sulfites. In addition things like laundry detergents and shampoos have tons of them. There are sulfite free products out there, you just have to look. Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: julietlibes

                                                                                                                                                                      Welcome to Chowhound, julietlibes.
                                                                                                                                                                      This issue has been extensively discussed on Chowhound, and I urge you to read the explanations already here on why sulfites in wine (or other beverages) do not cause reactions. Usually when people have a reaction to drinking wine, it's either congeners, acetaldehyde, histamines or tyramines. Folks just blame sulfites because they've heard it in conversation, but the claim was disproven repeatedly in scientific trials. Do a search and read more.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                        Hi Maria,

                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you for your comment. I can only speak from personal experience. I get a reaction from wine (certain types more than others), ciders, toothpaste, laundry detergent, as well as most hand soaps, body wash, lotions. The only ingredient common to all of these things is sulfites and sulfates. It has taken me a long time to realize what was making me sick, so my comment was meant to help others who were going through the same thing. Discovering sulfite-free products and not getting embarrassing flushes, breakouts, and itchy hives has been like a miracle for me. Again I can only speak from my own experience and I can tell you without a doubt that my sulfite sensitivity is real. It first manifested exactly the way it is described in the original post.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: julietlibes

                                                                                                                                                                          I can only speak in regards to wine and other beverages with alcohol: it is not the sulfites. This has been researched thoroughly in medical trials. But your symptoms are real and troubling, so you have simply misidentified the substance in wine causing your reaction. Toothpaste, laundry detergent, hand soaps, body wash and lotions each contain a huge number of substances that cause a *similar* physical reaction. Meaning, it's not just one substance, but probably several that cause your reaction. Wine and cider are ingested rather than being used topically, so different dynamics are at play. If it's the histamines in wine causing your reaction, half a tablet of an anti-histamine before drinking usually allows someone to enjoy wine again. (I'm all for that.) If it's tyramines, your reaction is dose-related so ingest fewer of them at a single meal. (Easy.) If it's acetaldehyde, your body's response can often be "trained." (Also easy.) Cider has many substances that can cause illness or a reaction, so research those. I'd urge you to visit your dermatologist so the offending substances can be specifically identified. Otherwise, you're just guessing and probably inaccurate. Health food websites and others of that ilk are notoriously inaccurate. Chowhound is limited to food discussions, so we can't discuss non-food products further. To find the relevant posts on Chowhound, learn how to search this site using the Chowhound search engine or Google (better). I wish you well, and please, get tested so you know for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                            Sorry Maria but you might be the one posting innaccurate information regarding sulfites including alcoholic beverages.

                                                                                                                                                                            Yes other things can cause flush (and they have been well covered in this thread) but there is indeed such thing as a sulfite allergy and while rare -people do suffer from it. Quite a few doctors (allergy specialists included) have never heard or seem to misunderstand the sulfite allergy phenom so I hope to be able to clear it up without typing a novel. This is by no means a complete list or a checklist. You may have some or none of the reactions.

                                                                                                                                                                            1) Sulfite Intolerance- This is mostly from drinking wine (or other high sulfite containing beverages)and can cause a headache,some blotchiness and some discomfort. NOT the same as an allergy. Other things in the wine in addition to the sulfites can compound the effect.

                                                                                                                                                                            2)Sulfite Allergy - Headache. heat.flushing. redness,urticaria (hives), tightness in chest,rapid heartbeat. tightness in throat, difficulty breathing and asthma like symptoms. It can be worse if you actually have asthma. Believe me there is no mistaking an allergy attack or the beginnings of anaphylaxis .

                                                                                                                                                                            Sulfites are a preservative that has been in existence since Roman times. It is used in a variety of foods and medicines as it prevents browning and preserves the color of what it is added to. The FDA banned it from salad bars and such after deaths were linked to it from in the 80's. Also a fun fact-it is used in Epi-pens to prolong the life of the product. Sulifites are also used in some perfumes/colognes and can be absorbed through the skin.

                                                                                                                                                                            Those allergic should also refrain from cooking with heavily laden sulfite products as you can breathe it in as well. IIRCC- The US GOVT requires anything with over 10000 PPM to have a suflite label on it.

                                                                                                                                                                            Now those that suffer from suliftes may also be sensitive to SULFATES and may also have/develop an allergy to them as well. Sulfates tend to be in a lot of products so the exposure is higher. Which might be happening in Juliets story. I don't know but I do urge ANYONE who thinks they might have an allergy to get tested. You might have to go through a few doctors to find one who knows anything about it. And please stop using whatever products are giving you the reaction.

                                                                                                                                                                            And do not think you can "train" your body without a doctors recommendation -if at all. More than likely you will die a not so fun way if you are actually allergic to a substance. There are cases of fisherman using suliftes to preserve seafood having problems-and they are not even allergic!

                                                                                                                                                                            I would like to urge posters like the above to be careful about posting what may and may not causes another person's allergic reactions because:
                                                                                                                                                                            a) they were not there
                                                                                                                                                                            b) they probably do not have first hand experience in it
                                                                                                                                                                            c There are no absolutes in medicine-Sulfite Allergies DO exist just like a thousand other maladies most people will never even hear about

                                                                                                                                                                            Source-Myself. Sulifte Allergy and works in the medical profession

                                                                                                                                                                            ETA: After reading some of the posts I thought I would add a little more including typos ( I am on my little laptop at the moment with my big clumsy hands)

                                                                                                                                                                            Anything with sulfites will cause a reaction-sulifte,metabisulfite,bisulfite
                                                                                                                                                                            so the person a few posts above that did not get a reaction from one type of pickled veggie may have not had the brand with sulfites in it. Distilled vinegar will be fine while undistilled might cause problems.

                                                                                                                                                                            Those having mixed drinks might want to check the mix ingredients-lemon/lime concentrate and anything with grape juice can be a culpirt. Remember brands only have to label it by law it reaches a certain amount. If you are allergic 5000 ppm can still be bad.

                                                                                                                                                                            There is not a whole lot on the internet regarding sulfites but I urge anyone who thinks they might have this problem to google it and definitely check out the food lists that commonly contain large amounts.

                                                                                                                                                                            Above all go see a doctor or specialist.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: toomft

                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with your last sentence, and your other recommendation to see an allergy specialist, but the rest is scientifically uninformed.

                                                                                                                                                                              Please read the many other posts on Chowhound about this, and research the medical and scientific literature, easily accessible online via the med-sci-chem databases.

                                                                                                                                                                              Remember: The human body produces 1000 mg of sulfites a day. A glass of wine contains 10 mg.

                                                                                                                                                                              There are many causes for reactions to wine and alcohol -- congenors (from cheap wine and alcohol), acetaldehyde processing errors (a trainable reaction), biogenic amines (which include histamines) -- among them. The reactions to these substances (redness, etc.) can be quite similar.

                                                                                                                                                                              One of many articles to read is ""Adverse reactions to wine: think outside the bottle," in the June, 2008, Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It said, "Challenges were negative with sulfites."

                                                                                                                                                                              More posts on Chowhound on sulfites, sulfur compounds, reactions to wine:

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                                                                I'm back. Last week I drank 3 bottles of Leiengugel? Octoberfest beer and got rapid heartbeat, severe headache, started puking, and had shortness of breath. I am going to get tested next week for gluten, sulfite, wheat and other grains allegies. I also, for the last couple of months have had this lump of what feels like mucus in my throat. I have good insurance and will take every test under the sun to find out what is wrong. So far my ear nose and throat doctor seems to think I have acid reflux and indigestion (more frequent if you are a smoker).. I am on prilosec and will try this for a bit to see if it works. He put a scope up through muy nose and into my throat- no cancer. Keep you posted after the tests.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: toomft

                                                                                                                                                                                The internet is such a powerful tool. I would like to add some experience I have with this issue and give additional evidence to what "toomft" has stated about Sulifites. Have had this phenomena since was a kid. When we use to have Thanksgiving supper I was allowed a glass of wine with half ginger ale so I could be like the grownups. Afterwards my face and neck would get beet red. Then we I was a teenager and started drinking, alcohol would be the worst Rye and Vodka was bad but Gin wouldn't really have any effect. Then as I aged I started to drink more beer instead of alcohol. What I noticed was that a Lager like Alexander Keiths would make my face beet red but an Ale like Molson Export would really have too much affect. Another factor was if I had started to drink beer on an empty stomach this could bring on a red face sometimes with beer that previously had no effect. I don't really drink that much wine but I think that red wine starts the problem more. Another thing I have noticed in my years of experience with this issue is that some fruit cause the same problem specifically Macintosh apples almost do it every time whereas I have never had the issue with green apples. Seeing all the related stories I am surprised that so many people have this issue. I haven't met anyone that has had a case of the red face as I read here. I am a white Canadian male (parents English and French decent). My experience or experiment that I would to share is that recently I have been getting flushed cheeks after supper and coincidentally my wife as well who has never had the issue before. It was happening for several days but we couldn't pinpoint the cause. Afterwards I had realized that we were both having Club Soda during dinner and adding "Realemon". As an experiment I had a Club Soda without the lemon and the problem didn't occur. I then tried it again with the lemon and it occurred it again. The good thing is that Realemon has 3 ingredients: lemon juice, lemon oil and sulifites. I have been drinking Realemon for several years so I think that this specific bottle has a high concentration of sulifites creating the flushed cheeks. And this is how I found this posting.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: minerva147

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm sorry you've suffered this reaction. I also want to say that until you have been tested by an allergist, you're really just guessing.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Unless you have a specific rare disease -- Sulfite Oxidase Deficiency -- you are not reacting to sulfites. You're blaming the wrong thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Bear in mind that ReaLemon also contains sodium benzoate, and when that combines with Vitamin C (loads of that in lemon juice), it forms benzene. Which could cause exactly the reaction you're having and it's not the sulfites at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Apples are a common allergy. Some species of apples will trigger a response; others won't.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Lots of other reasons for wine reactions as well:
                                                                                                                                                                                  cheap alcohol (which often has toxic alcohols/congeners),
                                                                                                                                                                                  common alcohol processing problems involving dehydrogenase/acetaldehyde, tyramines/biogenic amines causing terrible headaches, flushing and other reactions.

                                                                                                                                                                                  And the list goes on. Only very rarely is the culprit ever sulfites.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Don't guess. It's not worth having your throat close up or other extreme response. Don't blame the sulfites. Read credible research. Get tested.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. I am 42 Female. Of Irish, German, Scottish decent mostly. I have been drinking since I was 18 and never had any troubles at all. BUT>>>> Also in just the last couple years or so I have had some terrible reactions due to alcohol. One time I was on the phone with my sister just chatting away and drinking a Seagrams wine cooler. I had drank maybe half or 3/4 of the bottle and suddenly my heart was racing and my skin was itching everywhere. I began to have shortness of breath as well. This lasted for maybe an hour or two. I dumped the rest of the 4 pack down the drain. I did notice the bottles did have a warning "CONTAINS SULFITES" so I presume that means it was a high level of more that 10ppm. I did not get red or rashy. The next time it happened I was drinking Mikes harder lemonade and Goldschlager.(neither of these bottles had sulfite warnings) I did not get itchy or red or rashy, but I was very weak and short on breath and had to lie down. I ended up being short on breath and weak for a full week. Now my question is this........... Many of these posts (not all) are referring to a time frame. Most of us say we have been able to drink with no problem for years and this is a new occurence. Some of us say it has been happening on and off for 10 years or so with no rhyme or reason. Only a small percentage say they have had this problem since they can remember.. (and some of those are youngsters) SO? my question is?? Is the mega industry doing something different when mass producing alcohol now a days? Perhaps its due to Genetically modified ingredients. There has been alot of talk that these GE ingredients can and have raised allergies. And many of you state Benadryl helps if taken before drinking. I certainly dont know but the one thing I did notice was a high percentage of people coming across this board with a pretty specific time frame.. Mostly quite recently. Within the last ten years. (or less) Just a thought. I wish I knew the cure, the answer, but as of now it remains a mystery. And suffice it to say, it puts a damper on a great nite out wondering if this will be a symptom free nite or a nite from HECK..

                                                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: gochoosy

                                                                                                                                                                          Im 24 and from Ireland. I have just read all the above comments and have a very similar reaction. My face and neck go all red/blotchy similar to "the mask" as other people explained. It seems to happen randomly and I cannot pin it down to any particular drink or food eaten that day. Although vodka/spirits are worse then beers.

                                                                                                                                                                          I drink regularly (once or twice a week) and it 1st happened about 5 years ago. It used to only happen once r twice a year but is now getting more frequent. The only thing I found that works is to stop drinking for half an hour when it happens and take an ant-histamine. Once it goes away I can then carry on drinking again. I recently tried taking an anti-histamine before going out but although it helps I am not sure if this fully works or not; maybe I just didn't get a bad reaction those nights. One thing I can say is I think it happens more often when I am drinking a few days in a row and while I am dehydrated.

                                                                                                                                                                          I am now getting worried after reading various articles about how this can increase the chance of cancer. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/hea...

                                                                                                                                                                          We need to find a solution to this as I do not intend to give up the drink anytime soon and this is really embarrissing in social situations!!

                                                                                                                                                                          I think from reading this I am going to try a few different things and c wat works best:

                                                                                                                                                                          1) Drink plenty of water before going out and maybe while I'm out

                                                                                                                                                                          2) Take an ant-histamine before going out (zirtec / clariton etc


                                                                                                                                                                          3) Take pepcid before going out

                                                                                                                                                                          4) Vitamin NAC or carrot juice

                                                                                                                                                                          5) No carbs (potato / rice etc) that day

                                                                                                                                                                          6) No dairy products that day

                                                                                                                                                                          If any of the above work for me I will post here!!!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AlanIreland

                                                                                                                                                                            My reaction started in my early 30's with hard liquor. Now I am 40 and reactions can vary wildly from mild flushing to bright scarlet, raised blotches with itching and burning. I even get a little flush sometimes from mouthwash!

                                                                                                                                                                            I was recently diagnosed with low testosterone. So I am betting I started androphase around the same time I started reacting to alcohol (my hair started thinning then as well). I was also considerable overweight... about 50 lbs over normal for my age.

                                                                                                                                                                            I have tried a 2 month detox diet as well to see if other food was contributing since I have had similar reactions with processed meats containing sulphate based preservatives.... the first beer I tried after the 2 months made the balding top of my head look like the "Easy" button from Staples!

                                                                                                                                                                            I also had been diagnosed with esophogitis from bad acid reflux over a period of time. I wonder if the alcohol is bypassing the digestive lining and getting into the bloodstream faster from this or something similar?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Wbennett

                                                                                                                                                                              This started in my 30s and continues to this day. I'm a 54 year old female.

                                                                                                                                                                              Your remark about testosterone caught my attention. I have an adrenal condition that raised my testosterone and caused thinning hair. Dexamethasone took care of that, but made no difference with the face redness, heat an itching when drinking (beer, wine, hard liquour). I think people with adrenal problems have thinner skin, so everything shows on our faces. I think we also don't process carbs well, which may be a contributing factor.

                                                                                                                                                                              If I think I'm going to have alcohol, I always make sure I've been drinking water before and always have a glass of water when I'm drinking alcohol. It helps about 80% of the time

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jmariem

                                                                                                                                                                                My first reaction to seeing this thread was to address pituitary adrenal disorder, since red flushing can be caused by suddenly lowered cortisol, an effect of alchohol consumption, and something that happens to me, along with facial itching and hives when low in adrenal steroids even without drinking.

                                                                                                                                                                                Some folks have the reaction only when mixing alcohol with seafood, my sister used to get a violent reaction only on such occasions. Also, chicken, turkey and fish, if not super fresh, have high histamine levels and also cause this reaction in me shortly after eating them. Having them with wine could also trigger a big reaction. In such cases, antihistamines may help, but might not be enough to completely prevent.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks. Very helpful. I'll bring it up with my endo. I'm very allergic to shellfish and other iodine-laden foods. I think there's a connection in there, too

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jmariem

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have a SIL who spent the second hour of her wedding reception in the emergency room after having had a shrimp with champagne. She'd always been ok having them separately before that. Good luck.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Wbennett

                                                                                                                                                                                Well I have started taking probiotics and have not had any adverse food or alcohol reactions since starting. I am only about 2 weeks into the therapy but it seems to be helping in my specific case. Not sure if its atually doing anything or if its just coincidence but I will take what I can get!

                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: AlanIreland

                                                                                                                                                                                I am with you, I find it very scary that we could be suffering from ALDH2 deficiency, and that this deficiency, when paired with alcohol consumption, is increasing our risk of throat cancer.

                                                                                                                                                                                My symptoms are same as yours, usually happens after a couple nights of drinking, or drinking all day. Also more common after mixing alcohols like beer, wines and hard liquor.

                                                                                                                                                                                Has anyone confronted their doctor about the notion of ALDH2 Deficiency? I haven't yet, but I plan too. The last time I confronted him about the symptoms was a few years ago, and he just told me to "drink less"...big help!

                                                                                                                                                                            2. I have rosacea. Originally, that was my only problem when I drank alcohol. Now, with just a couple sips of wine, I get short of breath, somewhat dizzy, and feel faint. Same result drinking mixed drinks and regular beer. Saw Doctors and an allergist. No remedy. Began drinking non-alcoholic beer (less than 0.5% alcohol), and I'm OK. Previously, I was a moderate drinker. I'm non- Asian, and 70 years old. No one can explain why this syncope reaction began. Short of giving up alcohol, the Non-alcoholic beer works for me. Sorry about your problem. Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: edyak

                                                                                                                                                                                Many very low alcohol cocktails can be made with strongly-flavored bitters and soda water. Angostura and lemon juice is very nice, as is Peychaud's. Bittermen's Mole bitters, too. You could also use tonic water and perhaps some lime to cut the sweetness.

                                                                                                                                                                                I've also had good luck with soda and a bit of strongly-flavored vermouth, such as Punt e Mes or amaro (CardAmaro, Zucca). You might enjoy this as a change to low alcohol beer, if you can tolerate it.

                                                                                                                                                                                www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft cocktail recipe database for enthusiasts & professionals

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for your suggestion. Will give it a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: edyak

                                                                                                                                                                                    I went to a doctor and he said it was acid reflux/indigestion, he gave me a script for nexium and I am doing a lot better. The other part is dehydration and if you attempt to drink heavy 2 days in a row, then you must counter the alcohol with several glasses of water.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. in response to my post March 09 ... no cures set in concrete. Hate to say it. HOWEVER! I went to Bali for 7 days in November just gone ... almost worst trip of my life. I ate Nazi Goreng three times before I realized that it was based on shrimp paste ... my face was swollen for 3 out of 7 days ... but this is the allergic to alcohol forum ... so probably close to 5 out of 7 days I had the allergic to alcohol itch, the raised hives all over my body, the irritability you can't imagine - I'm overseas with an allergy! So since being back, I've been trying to work things out. It could have been the weather (most days it was a sweaty yuck heat around 40C) and we were drinking Bacardi most nights. After reading the post-forums after mine, heat could have been a factor, alcohol being the second ... but since being back I have had this reaction TWICE. Twice in almost 4 months as opposed to the almost every month prior to going OS. So I love cheese. Cheese on toast, cheese in spaghetti ... cheese, cheese. At the moment, I'm working on mixing cheese with alcohol to see if this brings it on ....... I'm not in any rush to try this mind you, if this is what causes MY allergy, I don't want to deliberately bring it on ... will post with outcome!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. I have a bad reaction to alcohol as well. It has happened four times now to different types of alcohol, beer, wine, vodka, and champagne. I had severe stomach pain, throat closed up, and diarrhea. I immediately took benadryl and the last time I used my epi pen. The reaction lasts about 45 minutes. Any idea what it is?

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TraceyB

                                                                                                                                                                                    Seriously? Ask your doctor . . . don't come to Chowhound for medical advice. Your description could be anything, but it's certainly *not* "Asian flush."

                                                                                                                                                                                    If you experience "severe stomach pain," and have to use your epi pen -- TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                                                                                                                                                      Of course I have talked to my doctor and they don't know either. I was just interested to see if anyone else had experienced the same thing. I just have completely stopped drinking any alcohol to be safe.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TraceyB

                                                                                                                                                                                        Did you have any shellfish at the time? The combination causes a severe reaction in some folks, like my sister (gut misery all night) or a SIL who had to leave her own wedding reception after having champagne and shrimp and blew up with hives.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: TraceyB

                                                                                                                                                                                      Your symptoms are much too dangerous to be discussed here.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like a severe histamine reaction, but it is truly dangerous to guess here. You risked death with your reaction.

                                                                                                                                                                                      At this point, you don't even know for certain it's the alcohol, or what ingredient in the alcohol (if it is the alcohol causing the emergency) is causing this.

                                                                                                                                                                                      You need to see an allergist -- obviously if you have an epi pen, you do have an allergist. If he doesn't know, then press harder to find someone who does.

                                                                                                                                                                                      BTW, have enough epi pens to have them everywhere -- one at home, one in your purse, one your briefcase, desk at work, car, everywhere you go.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Right, so it's now been more than 9 years (and 3 posts on this page) & I have an answer to my reactions!
                                                                                                                                                                                      I've been to a great specialist on three occasions now and we've ascertained that I'm allergic to Codeine (I had Codral Cold Tablets a few months back & my uvula (the little boxing bag in my throat) closed up) however not enough to effect my breathing; and the hives that I get is an auto-immune disease known as Acute Urtecaria - which is an overactive immune system when stimulated by multi vitamins (and the like) and also to heat (which is why I was hiving up when I drank too much alcohol) The histamines under my skin would get irritated and burst if you like. Can't tell you the relief to actually find both causes, but I would highly recommend going to an allergy specialist as I would NEVER have been able to find out the answers myself. Good luck all x