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Getting pressure in chest, breathing difficulty after drinking alcohol. Am I allergic to alcohol?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 2001
Answered : 2344 Questions
Whenever I have even a sip of alcohol, I get such an intense pressure in my chest and it's hard to get a deep breath. Do you think I could have an allergy to alcohol? This pressure even goes into my upper arms. It's been going on for at least 30 years, but for the last 8 years or so, it happens every time and even when I just have a sip of wine or beer, any alcohol at all. I have been a non-smoker for over 6 years.
Posted Wed, 17 Apr 2013 in Asthma and Allergy
Answered by Dr. Naveen Kumar 1 hour later

Thanks for posting the query.

Yes, after going through the history I do feel you are having an allergy to alcohol, but an atypical one. Usually a reaction to alcohol is caused by ingredients present in the drink, like sulphites, malt, yeast, etc.

Sulphites are one of the commonest chemicals found in wine and some beers which are known to trigger asthmatic reactions in people. Nausea, rashes, swelling, diarrhea and vomiting, are other symptoms and signs which are noticed when the drink is taken.

Secondly, there can be alcohol intolerance, which can cause dehydration, nausea or headaches as soon as the alcohol is consumed.

My advice to you is to avoid alcohol for few days, meanwhile, consult a good immunologist for allergic desensitisation and immunotherapy. For the emergency relief from the symptoms you can try taking antihistamines such as fexofenadine or levocetrizine.

Hope this answers your query; I will be available for the follow-up queries.

Dr. Naveen Kumar N.
ENT and Head & Neck Surgeon
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Getting pressure in chest, breathing difficulty after drinking alcohol. Am I allergic to alcohol? 7 minutes later
I have avoided alcohol for at least 8 years. The feeling I get when trying any alcohol is definitely not worth having a drink. The only time I have had any is communion wine. I just wondered if you thought it was an allergy or what could be the cause. It would be nice to enjoy a frozen icy drink with friends in the summertime, but I guess I'm stuck with water or Coke! Is there a way to get my body to tolerate alcohol? I'm not going to go to any extremes, but if there is an easy way, I may try it. Thank you for your answers!
Answered by Dr. Naveen Kumar 2 hours later

Thanks for writing back

When you are having allergy to alcohol it is wiser to avoid it any cost. Please consult a good allergic specialist or an immunologist for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy or allergic shots is a novel method of desensitising the body to allergens (the substance which induces allergy). This is done by injecting small doses of the substance you are allergic to, till the body gets totally desisitized to the allergen.

There are two ways to do this (i) subcutaneous injection of the allergen, (ii) sublingual administration of small doses of allergen. This will take few months to years, but it will be definitely beneficial to you.

I wish you good luck and good health.

Dr. Naveen Kumar N.
ENT and Head & Neck Surgeon
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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