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Understanding Alcohol Intolerance: Symptoms Causes and Treatment Options

Have you ever experienced a stuffy nose, skin flushing, or hives after a few sips of alcohol? These symptoms could be an indication of alcohol intolerance.

While some people can enjoy several drinks with no issues, others might experience uncomfortable symptoms that can be a sign of an underlying condition. In this article, we will explore what alcohol intolerance is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

By the end of this guide, you will be equipped with knowledge to help you manage alcohol intolerance and possibly avoid symptoms altogether. What is Alcohol Intolerance?

Alcohol intolerance is a condition where your body is unable to process alcohol correctly, leading to various symptoms after even a small amount of alcohol. This condition is different from alcoholism, which is a dependence on alcohol characterized by a range of symptoms such as loss of control, craving, physical dependence, and tolerance.

Symptoms of Alcohol Intolerance

The symptoms of alcohol intolerance vary from person to person, depending on the cause of the intolerance. Some of the common symptoms include:

– Stuffy nose

– Skin flushing

– Hives

– Asthma

– Low blood pressure

– Nausea

– Vomiting

– Diarrhea

– Migraines

– Severe allergic reaction

Causes of Alcohol Intolerance

There are several causes of alcohol intolerance. These include:

Genetic Condition: Some people are genetically predisposed to alcohol intolerance, and as a result, their bodies can’t process alcohol correctly.

This condition is called Asian flush or alcohol flush reaction. Reaction to Ingredients in a Drink: Some people can be allergic to specific ingredients present in an alcoholic beverage.

For instance, people with a gluten allergy might experience symptoms when they drink beer, while others might have a sensitivity to the histamine present in red wine. Combining Alcohol with Certain Medications: Certain medications, when combined with alcohol, can cause a range of symptoms.

These include antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and heart medications such as nitrates. Sulfites, Preservatives, and Chemicals: Some alcoholic beverages may contain sulfites, preservatives, or chemicals that can trigger an allergic reaction or intolerance.

Grains: People who are intolerant to grains such as wheat, rye, or barley might experience symptoms if they drink beer or other alcoholic beverages made with these grains. Histamine: People with an intolerance to histamine might experience symptoms if they drink red wine, champagne, or beer.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you experience mild alcohol intolerance symptoms such as a stuffy nose or skin flushing, you may not need to see a healthcare provider. However, if you notice any serious reaction such as severe pain, allergy, or medication issues, it’s important to seek medical advice immediately.

Diagnosis Procedures

If you suspect you have alcohol intolerance, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about it. He or she will take your medical history, ancestral allergies, and any symptoms you might have experienced.

A skin prick test or an oral challenge test might also be necessary to rule out other potential health issues.

Treatment Options

The most effective treatment option for alcohol intolerance is to avoid alcohol altogether or reduce your intake. However, if you choose to drink alcohol, you can take several precautions to manage symptoms.

These include reading food and drink ingredients, carrying antihistamine medication, and carrying epinephrine auto-injectors.

You can also try to reduce or avoid certain types of alcohol, and over-the-counter or prescribed medications can be taken to alleviate symptoms, such as antacids for stomach issues or ibuprofen for headaches.

Can Alcohol Intolerance Disappear?

Unfortunately, alcohol intolerance is often a permanent condition, and there is no known cure.

However, by avoiding triggers and taking precautions, you can manage the symptoms effectively.


In conclusion, experiencing symptoms of alcohol intolerance can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying social experiences with friends and family. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, you can take steps to minimize the discomfort that comes with alcohol intolerance.

And remember, if you have any severe symptoms, do not hesitate to talk to a healthcare provider. In conclusion, alcohol intolerance can cause discomfort and unpleasant symptoms for those affected by it.

While there’s no known cure, there are several treatment options that can help manage the condition, such as avoiding alcohol, reading food and drink ingredients, carrying antihistamine medication, and carrying epinephrine auto-injectors. It’s also essential to seek medical advice if you experience any severe symptoms.

Remember, taking precautions can make a difference. Here are some frequently asked questions about alcohol intolerance:


What are the common symptoms of alcohol intolerance? Some common symptoms include skin flushing, hives, stuffy nose, and migraines.

2. What are the causes of alcohol intolerance?

Common causes include a genetic condition, reaction to ingredients in a drink, combining alcohol with certain medications, sulfites, preservatives, chemicals, grains, histamine, and gluten. 3.

How can alcohol intolerance be diagnosed? To diagnose alcohol intolerance, a doctor might take your medical history, ancestral allergies, and conduct a skin prick test or oral challenge test.

4. What are the treatment options for alcohol intolerance?

The most effective treatment option is to avoid alcohol altogether, but medications such as antacids or ibuprofen can help alleviate symptoms. 5.

Can alcohol intolerance disappear on its own? Unfortunately, alcohol intolerance is often a permanent condition, but symptoms can be managed through precautions and avoidance of triggers.

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