You are probably allergic to alcohol if a sip of beer or wine during the Chinese New Year celebrations makes you itch, wheeze or turn red.

Many things in your favourite mug of beer or glass of wine can trigger some form of allergy which can put a dampener on any party celebration. Allergies can take the form of mild discomfort such as a stuffy nose to potentially life-threatening shortness of breath and abdominal reactions.  Some allergies also do not manifest until later in life so paying attention to your body when having a tipple can help you keep off the party dampeners so you can better enjoy your Chinese New Year celebrations.

Here is a list of the top allergens in the most common alcoholic drinks.


Found In: Red Wine

Histamines are a naturally occurring substance that can be found in many different types of foods or as a by-product of fermentation in some fermented substances, including wine.  In fact, wine is relatively low in histamines compared to fruit such as strawberries.  However, red wine generally has between 20 percent and 200 percent more histamine content than the equivalent amount of white wine. According to wine experts, the variation in histamine content is due to the region and type of grape used to make the wine.  For example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot generally have a lower content than Shiraz.  Histamines are also largely responsible for headaches people might get from drinking red wine.


Found In: White, Rose & Sweet Wines

Sulphite is an inclusive term for sulphur dioxide, a form of preservative used in winemaking for its antioxidant and antibacterial qualities.  White wines tend to have more sulphites than red wines because of the way they are made.  As much of the antioxidants in white wine are lost from removing the skin from grapes, large doses of sulphur are often added to the wine to prevent oxidation.

Asthmatics will certainly understand what it feels like when an allergy like this kicks in; wheezing and gasping for air can certainly be distressing.  It has been noted that some people can develop sulphite allergies at any point in their life, even if they have had no previous history.


Found In: Beer & Whiskey

Yeast comes in many different strains depending on the type of beer and whiskey and is almost definitely found in every bottle of beer and whiskey that you can drink; after all, it’s a key ingredient in their fermentation process.

Extra care must be taken to identify an allergy since a yeast allergy may initially present themselves as a yeast infection since they share similar symptoms.  They both result in dizziness, joint pain, abdominal swelling and breathing difficulties.  However, compared to allergic reactions to sulphites, they don’t result in blotchy skin or rashes.


Found In: Beer

Malted barley or wheat are common ingredients in beer and both of these contain forms of gluten.  People with a gluten intolerance or gluten allergy may experience allergy symptoms when drinking beer.  However, not all beers are created equal and some may contain more gluten than others.  It’s also important to note that beer makers are not required to display the amount of gluten content in their products either, so it pays to remain vigilant!

When unsure, having an antihistamine half an hour before having your first drink might help you enjoy it more; you must however ensure that it’s safe to have alcohol when on that antihistamine.

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