Allergic to schnapps?
September 23, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I drink alcohol I get sort of an allergic reaction: skin rash (red spots on my face and shoulders) that feels a bit itchy. The first time that happened was about 2 years ago (never had that before and I'm 29 now) and now it occurs about every tenth (or so) time I drink hard liquor. It hardly ever occurs with beer or wine and it doesn't seem to be related to a certain ingredient (it happens with vodka as well as with Campari). Plus it doesn't seem to be related to the quantity of alcohol ingested. Maybe the cause is a certain kind of food in combination with alcohol? I haven't done enough "tests" to find out more. What could that be and need I be worried?
posted by cronholio to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The only two things that popped into my head, that could cause such reactions:

1. Small dose/s of Antabuse

2. Some people of Asian decent have been known to have this reaction to alcohol.

The first scenario is highly unlikely since Antabuse is normally given in a controlled environment as a deterrent to ingesting alcohol.

The second scenario, I do not know your lineage so couldn't surmise more than that.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: What you're describing sounds like hives, and it's likely you are experiencing a histamine reaction to the alcohol, perhaps when drinking liquor, which itself has higher concentrations of alcohol than beer or wine.

I sometimes (rarely) experience the same thing, including sneezing, a stuffy nose, and even asthma. Typically this happens to me when I'm already suffering from hayfever - alcohol just pushes me over the edge.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2010

It sometimes happens to me too. I think I mostly notice it when I've mixed different liquors. But if I'm having a night that involves both gin and whiskey, it might have more to do with the quantity and duration of my drinking than the types of drinks.

I don't think you need to worry. Obviously, your body doesn't really like what you're doing to it, but it doesn't like serious drinking anyway. Your body's more upset by whatever you did to earn that hangover.
posted by oreofuchi at 10:10 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: I went through something not dissimilar, only for me, it was more patchy: a block of say six weeks, occurring maybe three or four times a year, when maybe every other time I drank alcohol (and even in very small quantities, like one glass of wine), I would get allergic reactions similar to the ones you describe: red, flushed skin; the feeling hives were about to break out, but just not quite; nasal and sinus congestion; overall itchiness (but not difficulty breathing). I have hayfever in the summer, and the symptoms were similar to a bad and swift attack of that. I did something similar, it seems, to what you've done: 'tested' myself by swapping out different kinds of drinks, different accompanying foods, that sort of thing. But these periods never lasted long, and as soon as they arrived, they'd just vanish after a few weeks, and I could drink alcohol with no allergic symptoms whatsoever. Anyway, eventually, just sick of allergies generally, I went to the doctor and asked for tests, and as well as the common ones (dust, mites etc.) I asked for an alcohol allergy test. The doctor told me they couldn't run one, but they could run tests for specific drinks, so I asked for beer and wine. They both came back negative, but I did find out I had a bad allergic reaction to dustmites. I just have a shitload of Acrivastine on hand now, all the time, on scrip, and I take one whenever I feel something like this coming on. I arrived at a stage that accepts that I cannot understand sometimes why I get like after one glass of wine or a gin and tonic, but realises just that it happens sometimes.
posted by hydatius at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010

I've recently noticed the same thing. For me, it started with red wine, and just last weekend it shifted to really strong beer combined with fish.

Like others have said, it seems to be associated with already having allergy issues and the alcohol just pushes it over the edge. It's very annoying though, keep a benedryl with you.
posted by teleri025 at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: I have had this my whole life, I get a histamine reaction when I drink alcohol - itchy eyes, wheezing, congestion. Not something I'd be worried too much about if I were you.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks a lot guys for so many answers in such a short time. First, I'm caucasian and I have a very high tolerance for alcohol. On a good night I can drink the equivalent of vodka bottle and still manage to find my keys when I get home. So it's not an intolerance of alcohol.

It really seems to be a different kind of allergy that has its effects increased by alcohol. I used to have very light hay fever a few years ago but hardly had any symptoms ever since. So, that might be it. Or some kind of food. I'll try to find out and have many a drink in the name of science.

All in all, I'm not too worried, it rarely ever happens and if it does, the effects are not too bad, at least in my case. Interesting to see that many others experience it too, never heard about it at all. Is it common that alcohol increases an allergic reaction?
posted by cronholio at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2010

I get this when I drink certain wines. I had an ice wine and I immediately started feeling itchy and my face and throat started turning red. Sounds like a sulfite allergy.
posted by govtdrone at 11:03 AM on September 23, 2010

I have a violent reaction to Bass Ale (as in I drink one and start projectile vomiting about three hours later). This only happens with Bass, and it doesn't matter what if it's one or six. There's obviously some ingredient that disagrees with me violently. The first time it happend, I thought it was food poisoning. The second time it happened, the only thing in common with the first occurrence was the beer I had with dinner. So I haven't touched a Bass since, and haven't had any problems. The point being, your body can be sensitive to some very weird things.
posted by dortmunder at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2010

Cronholio: If you really are downing entire bottles of hard liquor on a night out, it might be time for some pre-emptive checkups to make sure everything is in order, and maybe slowing down a bit.

You might feel fine, but it's pretty much guaranteed your liver doesn't share that feeling (and by the time it lets you know that, it's generally too late to do anything about it.)
posted by TravellingDen at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2010

I drink a lot too--you can't confuse your brain's alcohol tolerance for some other body part's tolerance. Something else might be wearing out quicker.
posted by oreofuchi at 12:05 PM on September 23, 2010

On a good night I can drink the equivalent of vodka bottle and still manage to find my keys when I get home. So it's not an intolerance of alcohol.

Repeated on a regular basis this trick can actually lead to decreased tolerance due to its negative effects upon one's liver. I am not saying that is you, just something to consider. Itching is a symptom of liver disease.
posted by caddis at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: Uh, I didn't mean to imply that I down whole vodka bottles on a regular basis. I'm more of a moderate drinker and rarely ever go out these days. Regular medical checkups have always said my liver is fine.

It's just that usually I don't get such a reaction even from drinking a lot in one night while other times one shot of liquor is enough to cause the rash.
posted by cronholio at 12:11 AM on September 24, 2010

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