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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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What are the symptoms of Asian flush syndrome?

Answered by
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar


Practicing since :2008

Answered : 14575 Questions

Posted on Mon, 6 Jun 2016 in General Health
Question: Hi there,

I had a question about the "Asian Flush" reaction to alcohol and how I can tell if I have it or not. I suspect I do not, which I will explain, but would like a doctor's opinion.

Occasionally (as I try to keep hangovers rare), if I drink enough to have a hangover the next day, I find my nose is dry/stuffy along with (sometimes) a sinus headache. (If I really overdo it, there may be some nausea or stomach issues as well, though I think that's normal with hangovers). I recently read an article which indicates stuffiness is not necessarily a normal hangover reaction, which made me look into it and wonder if I might have Asian Flush (an alcohol allergy/enzyme deficiency and inability to break it down properly).

When I drink moderately (1-2 drinks), I generally don't have these symptoms (or any hangover symptoms for that matter)...possibly slight nasal dryness/congestion the next day (though minimal if present), but otherwise I feel good.

I haven't noticed apparent redness, nausea, very rapid heartbeat, etc. DURING drinking and feel generally good. The apparent congestion (as well as slightly elevated heart rate and headache, though no redness that I've noticed) only happens after a night of reasonably heavy drinking and waking up hungover.

Can having "Asian Flush" syndrome be ruled out? While I know overdoing alcohol is never good and try to keep it a rare occurrence, I do drink moderately other times, and I know if you have Asian Flush, your risk for things like esophageal cancer is tenfold that of normal drinkers since the alcohol is much more toxic to your body.

I am of part Asian descent, but in my case, Asian XXXXXXX on my father's side. According to this article, though, Asian Indians are not listed as having higher risk:

While I know nasal congestion can be a symptom, the lack of redness I've noticed, as well as feeling good WHILE drinking makes me think it's just an odd thing with me and the hangovers I get and NOT Asian Flush (as most things I've read seem to point to feeling sick WHILE drinking with Asian Flush), but I'd like to make sure.

Thanks for your input.
Answered by Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
No, you are not having Asian flush syndrome.

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for your question on Healthcare Magic.
I can understand your concern.
No, I don't think you are having Asian flush syndrome.
It is actually an emergency kind of situation which can be life threatening if not treated promptly.
In my opinion, your symptoms are mostly due to dehydration produced by over drinking..
So I don't think you are having Asian flush syndrome.
In any case it is better to avoid over drinking of alcohol.
In fact, it is advisable not to drink alcohol of any quantity regularly.
So better to quit alcohol as soon as possible.
Hope I have solved your query. I will be happy to help you further. Wish you good health. Thanks.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 1 hour later
Thanks much. I have significantly cut back on alcohol from my 20's. I still do drink sometimes and would be lying if I said I didn't overindulge on occasion as well, but I try to keep those occasions rare.

I was aware Asian flush could be an emergency situation, but what I read seemed to indicate in some people, it doesn't present as an emergency, but still raises risk of esophageal cancer significantly. (I realize drinking in general also increases risk, but not nearly to the extent of for people who have that specific syndrome).

Even when I don't drink in the winter when it's dry, I tend to feel stuffy when I wake up, and have, for lack of a better word, crusty sinuses (sometimes with a bit of blood), so it makes sense that dehydration can also do this.

So I will continue to try to keep a low consumption of alcohol, but you feel fairly certain Asian flush is not an issue for me or I'd have more symptoms with only a little alcohol while drinking (flush, rash, nausea, etc.) and not just the nasal dryness/sinus headache next day?

Thanks again.
Answered by Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Asian flush syndrome is unlikely in your case.

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for your follow up question on Healthcare Magic.
I don't think you are having Asian flush syndrome.
Your sinus symptoms are mostly due to dehydration following alcohol intake.
So better to quit alcohol.
This will directly reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.
Also drink plenty of fluids orally and do steam inhalation 4-5 times a day following alcohol and in winters.
This will make you feel comfortable.
Hope I have solved your query.
If you are not having further queries, then please close the conversation and rate my answer.
You can ask me directly on
Wish you good health. Thanks.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar

The User accepted the expert's answer

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