Does Drinking Alcohol Worsen Your Allergies?

Maybe someday a study will come out linking alcohol consumption to something beneficial (hah!), but recent research suggests another score for team anti-booze.

So if your sniffling and sneezing is even worse than usual this year, you may want to put down that wine spritzer and read on.

The New York Times published an article last month linking wine, beer and liquor to an increased severity of allergy symptoms, asthma and hay fever, particularly among women.

The article cites a 2005 study where subjects who had consumed alcohol showed a significantly higher instance of allergy symptoms than subjects who did not drink, even in those who don't normally experience symptoms; women who consumed alcohol were about twice as likely as men to develop allergy symptoms (yet another blow against sexual equality ... sigh).

The primary cause of the reactions is the presence of histamine in wine, beer and liquor. Histamine is notorious for triggering allergy symptoms (you may be more familiar with antihistamines, found in many cold and allergy medicines). Sulfites, found in beer and wine, are also said to bring on or exacerbate allergy symptoms.

While histamine found in alcohol may worsen allergy symptoms, it may not affect one's allergy to the alcohol itself, as a recent study found no correlation between wine intolerance and the wine's histamine content.

So the golden rule seems to be that if you have ever experienced allergy symptoms (however mild), there's a decent chance that drinking booze will make it worse, especially if you have two X chromosomes. If you're allergic to alcohol, histamine levels won't make a difference, but you're still stupid for drinking it.

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Adriane Goetz