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Possible effect of the ingestion of alcohol on allergic rhinitis


Reviewed 4/17/2019
Is there any evidence that the use of alcohol makes seasonal and perennial allergies worse?


Thank you for your inquiry.

There is a large body of literature citing de novo production of upper airway symptoms as well as exacerbation of such symptoms in patients with rhinitis. Copied for you below are abstracts of three of the articles describing such symptoms. Thus it is not that alcohol can exacerbate "in particular" seasonal and perennial rhinitis, but rather can cause rhinitis symptoms in susceptible individuals with any form of this condition, and in some individuals regardless of whether or not they suffer from a chronic form of rhinitis.

Thank you again for your inquiry and we hope this response is helpful to you.

Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Jan;38(1):145-51. Epub 2007 Oct 10.
Prevalence of self-reported hypersensitivity symptoms following intake of alcoholic drinks.
Linneberg A, Berg ND, Gonzalez-Quintela A, Vidal C, Elberling J.
Research Centre for Prevention and Health, Glostrup University Hospital, The Capital Region of Denmark, Glostrup, Denmark.
Background: Although hypersensitivity symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption are common in asthmatics, the prevalence of such symptoms in the general population is not known.
Objective: To assess the prevalence of hypersensitivity symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption in an adult Northern European general population and the association of these symptoms with the prevalence of allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma.
Methods: In 2006, a postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 18-69-year-olds living in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The response rate was 70.7% (4242/6000).
Results: The prevalence of alcohol-induced symptoms from the upper airways, lower airways, and skin was 7.6% [95% confidence interval (CI): 6.8-8.4%], 3.2% (95% CI: 2.7-3.8%), and 7.2% (95% CI: 6.4-8.9%), respectively. A total of 13.9% (95% CI: 12.9-15.0%) had ever experienced alcohol-induced symptoms from at least one of the three regions (upper airways, lower airways, or skin), and 9.9% (95% CI: 9.0-10.8%) had experienced symptoms in the last 12 months. All types of beverages were commonly reported as triggers of hypersensitivity symptoms, red wine being the most common. Alcohol-induced hypersensitivity symptoms from the upper and lower airways were significantly more prevalent in persons with AR and asthma (odds ratios between 3.0 and 8.1, P-value <0.001 for all associations).
Conclusions: In this Northern European general population, self-reported hypersensitivity symptoms following the intake of alcoholic drinks are common. These symptoms were markedly more prevalent in persons with AR and asthma. The underlying mechanisms and the clinical significance of these symptoms remain to be elucidated.

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.
Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, University Hospital, SE-2218 5 Lund, Sweden.
Little is known about effects of alcohol intake on the upper, nasal airways. The present aim was to examine the prevalence of alcohol-induced nasal symptoms (ANS) and to explore associations between ANS and other respiratory diseases. A postal questionnaire focused on respiratory diseases and symptoms was sent to 11,933 randomly selected adult individuals. Subjects with ANS, n = 316 (3.4%) received a second questionnaire focusing on this condition. Nine thousand three hundred and sixteen (78%) subjects answered the first and 228 (72%) the second questionnaire. Two-thirds of the subjects with ANS were women. Red wine and white wine were the most frequent triggers of ANS, reported by 83% and 31% of the subjects, respectively. Nasal blockage was the most prominent symptom, but also sneezing, nasal discharge, as well as lower airway symptoms occurred after intake of alcoholic drinks. Self-reported physician's diagnoses of asthma, chronic bronchitis/emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as allergic rhinitis were more common in subjects with ANS compared with the general population (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). In conclusion, ANS are common and are about twice as frequent in women than in men. ANS seem to be associated with important respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD, and allergic rhinitis

Addict Biol. 2003 Mar;8(1):3-11.
Allergic and asthmatic reactions to alcoholic drinks.
Vally H, Thompson PJ.
Department of Health, The University of Western Australia, Western Australia.
Alcoholic drinks are capable of triggering a wide range of allergic and allergic-like responses, including rhinitis, itching, facial swelling, headache, cough and asthma. Limited epidemiological data suggests that many individuals are affected and that sensitivities occur to a variety of drinks, including wine, beer and spirits. In surveys of asthmatics, over 40% reported the triggering of allergic or allergic-like symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption and 30 - 35% reported worsening of their asthma. Sensitivity to ethanol itself can play a role in triggering adverse responses, particularly in Asians, which is due mainly to a reduced capacity to metabolize acetaldehyde. In Caucasians, specific non-alcohol components are the main cause of sensitivities to alcoholic drinks. Allergic sensitivities to specific components of beer, spirits and distilled liquors have been described. Wine is clearly the most commonly reported trigger for adverse responses. Sensitivities to wine appear to be due mainly to pharmacological intolerances to specific components, such as biogenic amines and the sulphite additives. Histamine in wine has been associated with the triggering of a wide spectrum of adverse symptoms, including sneezing, rhinitis, itching, flushing, headache and asthma. The sulphite additives in wine have been associated with triggering asthmatic responses. Clinical studies have confirmed sensitivities to the sulphites in wine in limited numbers of individuals, but the extent to which the sulphites contribute to wine sensitivity overall is not clear. The aetiology of wine-induced asthmatic responses may be complex and may involve several co-factors.

Phil Lieberman, M.D.