Alcohol allergy – what an embarrassing disorder to have grown up with. Give me asthma, hayfever, migraines, you name it, but not an alcohol allergy. At least with the other disorders you can sit back, relax and have a drink to forget about your disorder stricken existence – but with this particularly annoying form of allergy, you can’t even do that!
The term alcohol allergy is quite broad and has been colloquially used to describe a wide variety of alcohol related disorders ranging from simple alcohol related headaches & nausea, to more severe red facial flushing and hives, and even in the most extreme cases, seizures and unconsciousness.
It should be made very clear at the outset that if you are in the latter category of experiencing seizures, unconsciousness, or any potentially life threatening symptoms, then alcohol is simply not for you. An allergy specialist may or may not have the cure for you, I don’t know. But what I do know is that, whilst a cold beer on a hot sunny day can be a pleasant experience, it is certainly not worth risking your life over.
If, however, you don’t fit into this category and your alcohol allergy is merely causing unpleasant symptoms such as a red face, headaches, nausea, itching, etc., then perhaps there are a few things you can do to lessen and in some cases totally eliminate your alcohol allergy symptoms each and every time you consume alcohol.
First and foremost, know what you are drinking. Alcoholic beverages are made from a plethora of different ingredients ranging from grapes, yeast, potatoes, rice, plum, etc. In addition to this, in some cases, egg and seafood proteins are sometimes used in the production process of some alcoholic beverages to remove fine particles from the liquid. Any one of these ingredients may be the cause of the supposed ‘alcohol allergy’ rather than the alcohol itself.
So the lesson to be learned here is: Know your allergy, and know your alcohol. If you have a grape allergy, don’t drink wine. If you have a yeast allergy, don’t drink beer brewed with yeast. It sounds quite simple when simple examples are used, but this does not negate the importance of knowing precisely what you are drinking – even down to the particular fining agents used in the production process if you have allergies relating to eggs or seafood.
Secondly, if you have any kind of intolerance to alcohol at all, including an alcohol allergy, then the rate at which you consume and alcoholic beverage is of paramount importance in determining how intensely you will experience your allergy to alcohol. Think of each drink as a poison. Your body is equipped with the requisite tools to defend against this harmful substance entering your body but can only operate at its own pace. For some people, this is lightning fast, and they are the lucky ones who can slam down 5 beers in a row and dance around a nightclub feeling fine and dandy. If you are like me, and like the rest of the people most likely reading this article, you probably cannot slam down 5 beers in a row without spiraling into a symptom ridden nightmare of throbbing headaches, extreme red flushing and facial swelling, unbearable itching, etc, etc.
For us, drinking requires a very finely tuned judgment as to precisely how much or how little alcohol we can consume before our symptoms start to appear, and if this is one sip, then one sip it is. The skill is to become accustomed to knowing exactly how much to drink and when to stop – again, if it’s after one sip, then so be it. For some it might be 1 beer, others 3 sips of beer. For me, it used to be about 1 quarter of a beer before I needed to stop drinking and let my body do its thing as it metabolized the alcohol.