If you start to feel a little weird after drinking, it could mean way more than just a few too many glasses of wine. And if you frequently experience adverse symptoms when drinking alcohol, it could very well mean that you’ve developed an allergic reaction, where your body can’t metabolise it as it should.
Turns out, there are a few common symptoms that appear when you’re allergic to alcohol, and we were able to discuss them with Dr. Sonia Batra, MD, MSc, MPH, a dermatologist and cohost of the television show The Doctors. But as many of these are prevalent in other types of medical conditions, it’s worth seeing an allergist for a proper testing (a blood prick test) and diagnosis.
And as an allergy to alcohol can be an inherited trait, you might want to tap into genetics and inquire with your family. Some people have ALDH2, a gene variant, which happens to be more common in those of Asian descent, and it means the body can’t metabolise alcohol efficiently, Dr. Batra told POPSUGAR.
Red, Hot Skin
If your face is getting sweaty and flushed, it could be the alcohol talking, but if your face turns extremely red, this could indicate an allergic reaction.
“Alcohol opens up blood vessels and increases flushing,” Dr. Batra said. So it makes sense to get a little heated. Once you start drinking, your body metabolises the alcohol into acetaldehyde. But “when your body can’t neutralise the acetaldehyde fast enough, the blood capillaries in your face dilate, resulting in further flushing and redness due to histamine release,” she explained. And your body might respond negatively to this rise in histamine, which is common in wine and beer. (Especially red wine.)
At high levels, alcohol actually causes blood vessels to constrict, which temporarily increases blood pressure, she added. When your body can’t break down the histamine, due to inefficient enzyme capacity, those levels stay elevated, making you red and rashy, and you might even notice a rapid heart rate.
Do you have a drinking problem?
Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. You may have a drinking problem if you:
- Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
- Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
- Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
- “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking.
- Regularly drink more than you intended to.