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Alcohol can worsen the effects of allergies
Two studies have found that alcohol can cause or worsen the common symptoms of asthma and hay fever like sneezing, itching headaches and coughing.
But the problem is not always the alcohol itself. Beer, wine and some spirits contain histamine, produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. Histamine, of course, is the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms. Wine and beer also contain sulfites, another group of compounds known to provoke asthma and other allergy-like symptoms.
In one study in Sweden in 2005,(1) scientists looked at thousands of people and found that compared with the general population, those with diagnoses of asthma, bronchitis and hay fever were far more likely to experience sneezing, a runny nose and “lower-airway symptoms” after having a drink. Red wine and white wine were the most frequent triggers, and women, for unknown reasons, were about twice as likely to be affected as men.
Another study of thousands of women published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy in 2008 (2) found that having more than two glasses of wine a day almost doubles the risk of allergy symptoms, even among women who were free of seasonal and perennial allergies at the start of the study.
It is also helpful to be aware of foods that either release or contain histamine, like aged cheeses, pickled or fermented products and yeast-containing foods, like bread, cider and grapes.
(1) Respir Med. 2005 Jun;99(6):762-9. Epub 2005 Jan 21.Alcohol-induced upper airway symptoms: prevalence and co-morbidity. Nihlen U, Greiff LJ, Nyberg P, Persson CG, Andersson M.
(2)Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Jul;38(7):1179-85. Epub 2008 Feb 20.Alcohol consumption and the risk of self-reported perennial and seasonal allergic rhinitis in young adult women in a population-based cohort study.Bendtsen P, Grønbaek M, Kjaer SK, Munk C, Linneberg A, Tolstrup JS.Centre for Alcohol Research, National Institute of Public Health, Øster Farimagsgade Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark.