Alcohol Allergy

Alcohol Allergy Symptoms
Allergic Reaction to Alcohol

Alcohol Allergy
An allergic reaction to alcohol can mean one of three things

When you talk about an allergy to alcohol it may mean different things to different people.

There are, in fact, three different meanings of the phrase 'alcohol allergy':

1. An Allergy to Alcohol is much like a Food Allergy

This means when you drink you have a negative reaction to it. You have an allergic reaction to alcohol.

The symptoms are similar to those you would have with any other food allergy.

What happens is your body mistakenly recognizes the alcohol or an ingredient in it as an ‘invader’.

Your immune system releases antibodies to fight the ‘invader’ and in doing so you suffer from various symptoms.

Alcohol Allergy Symptoms

  • a tingling sensation in the mouth
  • hives
  • swelling of lips, tongue or throat
  • breathing problems
  • in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can occur

The reaction can be very serious resulting in death if the throat swells to such an extent that it becomes impossible to breathe.

It is advisable that you consult a doctor if you should suffer a reaction to any food.

An actual allergy to ethyl alcohol is relatively rare, usually it is a reaction to an ingredient in the drink (such as wheat or grapes) that causes the physical symptoms.

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An allergy to alcohol means that your body will react to even the smallest amount of the substance.

Alcohol intolerance, on the other hand, means that you can drink but that after a while you begin to suffer from side effects.

An allergy is generally more dangerous and it affects the immune system.

alcohol Allergy

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2. Alcoholism is an Allergic Reaction to Alcohol

‘...true alcoholism is an allergic state, the result of gradually increasing sensitization by alcohol over a more or less extended period of time.” W.D.Silkworth, 1937.

This view of allergy to alcohol contends that it is one of two characteristics common to alcoholics.

It is also the one held by Alcoholics Anonymous and its millions of members worldwide.

AA members believe drink dependency to be a mental and physical disease.

  • Mental because it is an obsession of the mind- the sufferer cannot resist a drink despite knowing the negative consequences of having one.
  • Physical because when drink is taken the sufferer’s body has an allergic reaction to it and craves more. The sufferer cannot stop drinking. This is the allergy aspect of alcoholism.

The mental obsession can be controlled, however the allergy cannot. That is why one of the main messages of AA is to avoid picking up the first drink at all costs. Once you do the allergy sets in and you, or your body, is out of control.

BOTH of these characteristics are present in those who are alcoholic

It must be stressed, however, that, despite the monopoly AA and the 12 step model have on treatment and recovery from alcoholism, there are alternative treatment programs.

3. 'Alcohol Allergy' is a Euphemism

Many people say they can’t drink because they are allergic to alcohol.

The reason for this could be because of the stigma attached to alcoholism.

It is easier to say you suffer from something that is perceived to be beyond your control (i.e. an allergy) than say you are alcoholic.

Many people still see alcoholics as being weak and responsible for their drinking problem.

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If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

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