Is that a hangover?  Or allergies?

If liquor leaves you feeling miserable, and you’ve ruled out a standard hang-over, it could be an alcohol intolerance or allergy.

alcohol allergies

Alcohol Intolerance
Alcohol intolerance is an inability of the body to properly process alcohol.  It is a genetic problem—not an allergy—and often manifests through flushed skin, hives, and a runny or stuffed-up nose.

Alcohol Allergy
An alcohol allergy has nothing to do with the digestion of alcohol, but rather, it is an inappropriate reaction on the part of the immune system to elements in the alcohol.  When the body encounters allergens in the alcohol (such as yeast, rye, gluten, grapes, etc.), it may perceive them as “enemy invaders” and attempt to fight them off by releasing histamines into the body that cause allergy symptoms.  Of course those ingredients hiding in your glass of beer or wine aren’t really harmful—your body just thinks they are. (That’s what happens with allergies!)  Until your body becomes desensitized to those ingredients through allergy immunotherapy, it will likely continue to overreact to them.

Allergy Treatment
If your reactions to alcohol are mild enough that they don’t interfere with your quality of life significantly, you may be able to continue to have an occasional drink.  If your reactions are bothersome enough or even hazardous to your health, though, it’s important to consult a doctor.  While there is no known treatment for alcohol intolerance, there are some options for alcohol allergies.  Consult with your doctor about a relatively new treatment known as sublingual immunotherapy which uses under-the-tongue drops (as an alternative to allergy shots) to desensitize your body to common allergens.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.