It's Not a Hangover, It's an Allergic Reaction

FRIDAY Jan. 1, 2010 -- For people with allergies and asthma, toasting the New Year could result in more than a hangover; it could also set off a variety of unpleasant reactions, warns an organization of allergists.

"It is usually not the alcohol itself that produces the reaction. It is most likely ingredients, such as sulfur dioxide [metabisulfite], yeast and additives. Common allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, flushing and warmth of the skin, bronchospasm or shortness of breath, especially in those with asthma," Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, chairman of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's Public Education Committee, said in a news release.

Sulfur dioxide is naturally produced during the production of wine and can cause allergic reactions when people drink wine, the experts say. It has the same effects when allergic people eat foods in which it's used as a preservative, such as baked goods, condiments, shellfish and canned foods such as tomatoes and fruit juices.

Histamine, generated by bacteria and yeast in alcohol, can also cause allergic reactions and result in a runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes and worsening asthma symptoms. These symptoms can be worse in red wine as compared to white wine, the allergists noted.

Beer can also cause allergic symptoms because of ingredients such as barley, corn, wheat and rye, they added.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on allergies.

Posted: January 2010


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