Why Some People Get Hives From Alcohol

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Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is a reaction of the skin characterized by redness and irritation. Hives is most commonly caused from an allergic reaction from a food, chemical or hormone. Some people, on consumption of an alcoholic beverage, experience this skin condition.

Though an actual alcohol allergy is rarely seen in the general populace, an allergic reaction to a component of an alcoholic beverage is a common occurrence. Alcohol is heavily processed and exposed to several foreign agents that become bottled and packaged inside the liquid or become existent during fermentation, thereby ingested by the individual. Though there are several of these bodies, urticaria is induced from alcohol primarily due to these three common components found in alcohol: histamines, sulfites, and plant-derived allergens.

Though an actual alcohol allergy is rarely seen in the general populace, an allergic reaction to a component of an alcoholic beverage is a common occurrence.

1. Histamine

Histamine is a major component of most red wines. It is a common hormone in the body, used to detect foreign substances in the bloodstream and to initiate the release of white blood cells to rid the body of these substances. When there is an elevated amount of histamine in the body, common physical side effects can be a runny nose, congestion, or flushing on the cheeks. These side effects are due to the increased metabolic rate caused by the inflated amount of bodily histamine. An elevated intake of histamine due to excess consumption of a red wine beverage could possibly cause the outbreak of urticaria on the affected individual.

2. Sulfite

Sulfites are also a contributing factor to allergic-like reactions caused from alcohol, particularly sodium metabisulphate. This chemical reagent is used in the bleaching process of the paper and clothing industries. It is also used heavily in the commercial wine industry and to clean the brewing equipment in most breweries. Because this chemical is not a naturally occurring bodily substance, it can cause a variety of reactions. These include asthmatic like attacks, shortness of breath, swelling of the epidermis, and flushing of the skin. Urticaria caused from a reaction to sodium metabisulphate could definitely be possible from excessive ingestion of a commercial wine, or any beverage where the brewing equipment is cleaned with a sulphite complex.

3. Plant-derived Allergens

Plant-derived allergens can also cause urticaria from alcoholic beverages. An allergy to grapes would cause an outbreak of epidermal hives from the consumption of wine. A grain allergy such as malt or wheat would also result in the same dermal sensitivity from consuming beer or whiskey. Several specialty alcoholic beverages are also flavored with several different fruit accents such as the pineapple in piña coladas, or the strawberry in strawberry daiquiris. Any allergies to these fruits would also result in an outbreak of uticaria from the alcoholic beverage, though not the alcohol itself.

People who consume alcohol and see these reactions should be particularly wary of excess consumption. This can cause an anaphylaxis, or an episode of increased heart rate and reduced breathing ability. This is potentially life-threatening and should be avoided at all costs. The thorough investigation of all ingredients should be completed if there are any known allergies that could be contained in the alcohol before consumption. Though the outbreak of urticaria might not be due to the alcohol itself, any alcoholic drink that could contain an allergic component should be avoided at all times in order to avert the reaction.

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References:

[1] http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/cutaneous-adverse-effects-of-alcohol/

[2] http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/alcohol-angioedema-urticaria

[3] https://www.allergyuk.org/common-food-intolerances/alcohol-intolerance

[3] http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-Does-Histamine-Do.aspx