Besides conducting a physical exam, your doctor might request these tests:
- Skin test. A skin test can determine whether you might have an allergy to something in alcoholic beverages — for example, the grains in beer. Your skin is pricked with a tiny amount of a substance that could be causing your reaction. If you're allergic to the substance being tested, you'll develop a raised bump or other skin reaction.
- Blood test. A blood test can measure your immune system's response to a particular substance by checking the amount of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream known as immunoglobulin E antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a laboratory to check reactions to certain foods. However, these tests aren't always accurate.
The only way to avoid alcohol intolerance symptoms or an allergic reaction is to avoid alcohol or the particular beverage or ingredients that cause the problem. For a minor reaction, over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines might help reduce symptoms, such as itching or hives.
Preparing for your appointment
Although alcohol intolerance usually isn't a serious issue as long as you don't drink alcohol, you might want to discuss it with your doctor at your next appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment, and when they occur.
- Key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes. Stress can sometimes worsen allergic reactions or sensitivities.
- All medications, vitamins or supplements you take and the dosage.
- Questions to ask your doctor.
For alcohol intolerance, some questions to ask your doctor include:
- What do you think is causing my reaction to alcoholic beverages?
- Are any of my medications likely causing or worsening my reaction to alcohol?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes of my symptoms?
- What tests do I need?
- What treatments are available?
- Do I need to give up alcohol?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor might ask:
- When did you notice a reaction to alcoholic beverages?
- What beverages — beer, wine, mixed drink or a particular type of liquor — trigger your symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- How long does it take for symptoms to appear after drinking the beverage?
- How much of the beverage do you drink before you notice a reaction?
- Have you tried over-the-counter allergy medications, such as antihistamines, for your reaction, and if so, did they help?
- Do you have allergies, such as to particular foods or to pollens, dust or other airborne substances?
What you can do in the meantime
Avoid the beverage or beverages that seem to cause your reaction until your doctor's appointment.
If you drink a beverage that causes a mild reaction, over-the-counter antihistamines might help relieve symptoms. However, for a severe skin reaction, weak pulse, vomiting or trouble breathing, seek emergency help right away, as you could be having an anaphylactic reaction.
May 04, 2018
- Fazio SB. Approach to flushing in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 9, 2018.
- Alcohol allergy. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/product-allergy/alcohol-allergy. Accessed Feb. 9, 2018.
- Out to eat with food allergies? Don't forget about your drinks. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/food-allergy-drinks. Accessed Feb. 9, 2018.
- Allergy testing defined. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/allergy-testing. Accessed Feb. 9, 2018.
- Aoki Y, et al. Quantification of skin erythema response to topical alcohol in alcohol-intolerant East Asians. Skin Research and Technology. 2017;23:593.
- Diet and migraine: Q&A with Dr. Vincent Martin. American Headache Society. https://americanheadachesociety.org/news/diet-migraine-qa-dr-vincent-martin/. Accessed Feb. 9, 2018.
- Bryant AJ, et al. Alcohol intolerance as associated with Hodgkin lymphoma. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2013;185:E353.