Alcohol: Why do I have rashes?

Rashes that erupt after drinking alcoholic beverages is a reaction to one of the ingredients. Inability of the body to metabolize alcohol can result to flushing that strikingly resembles rashes especially in some ethnic groups. Since allergic reactions often worsen with frequent exposure, a doctor should be consulted for proper testing.

Intolerance to alcohol

Alcohol intolerance can cause nasal congestion and facial flushing that look like an allergy rash. Among Asians, intolerance occurs since the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase is absent which helps break down the toxins in alcohol. The reaction includes a pounding heartbeat, vomiting and nausea. This form of intolerance is considered genetic.

Rashes from alcohol

Antihistamines can be used to reduce the symptoms in mild reactions, but severe cases require a shot of epinephrine.

Histamine which forms from brewing or fermentation processes can also trigger a reaction.

Allergens that can trigger rashes

Individuals who are allergic to grains utilized in producing alcohol such as hops, grapes, barley, wheat or rye as well as those who are sensitive to sulfites in preservatives in wines might end up with reactions.

The combination beverages that contain tonic water or juice might also trigger a reaction with rashes. In a study conducted, it was reported that rashes occurred among those who drank alcohol mixed with tonic water that contains quinine.

Management

If an individual develops allergic rashes or facial flushing due to alcohol intolerance, it is vital to avoid alcohol or other substances that he/she is allergic to.

In case the individual is allergic to a specific type of alcoholic beverage, he/she might be able to drink other beverages. On the other hand, if the individual has an inherited intolerance, even a small amount of any type of alcoholic drink can trigger a reaction.

Antihistamines can be used to reduce the symptoms in mild reactions, but severe cases require a shot of epinephrine.

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