You have just passed the age of majority (or are well past it), and you are about to take wine for the first time. Just a family dinner, nothing big. You would rather have softdrinks, but you want to exploit your age. After all, having wine is something like a rite of passage, right? So you take about a shot-glass worth.
To your surprise, after finishing the tiny glass, you feel a faint itching sensation on your scalp. You scratch it, assuming it’s just one of those randomly appearing itches, when you find soft red rashes sprinkling on your chest and down your arms and legs. No way. If you are absolutely not allergic to anything, it might come as a shock that you could be allergic to wine.
Is There Such A Thing As A Wine Allergy?
Alcohol Increases Allergic Reactions
In people with existing chronic allergies, such as asthma, rhinitis, and urticaria, alcohol worsens the effect of the trigger. In fact, for each alcoholic drink consumed in a single week, the risk of allergic reactions goes up by 3%. For people with food allergies, alcohol makes it more likely that food molecules will escape into the body. The allergic reaction is therefore much more violent.
Red and White Wines Add Risk
Alcohol aggravates allergic reactions, and both red and white wines have chemicals which trigger those allergies. Red wine usually calls out the most allergic reactions, because it has high histamine content. Histamine is a natural chemical produced by the body to combat allergens, by widening passageways for the white blood cells.
However, allergy symptoms can cause much discomfort and even become dangerous with swelling and itchiness. It is the same with a too-high fever, even though the heat is burning out the bacteria. The increased histamine, and the aggravation of the alcohol, can provoke an allergic reaction that breaks out in rashes, shortness of breath, swelling, and so forth.
Those allergic to white wines, on the other hand, are likely allergic to sulphur additives, or sulfites, used to preserve the wine. The sulfite content is generally low, but the addition of the alcohol can trigger allergic reactions where there are normally none. If wine is drunk warm rather than chilled, the sulphur content is stronger.
Symptoms Of Wine Allergy
The mildest symptoms of wine allergy are skin rashes. For people with a faster acid reaction, the symptoms are diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. The more traditional allergic reactions are difficulty in breathing, red and swollen eyes, and a running nose. Antihistamine is also a regular combatant of the wine allergy.
The longer-term effects of wine allergies are migraines, sudden low moods, chronic tiredness, and regular headaches. If you are already wine intolerant but continue to drink, these are the symptoms you are mostly likely to get.
Yes, There Is Such A Thing As A Wine Allergy
If nothing else, this is a very good reason to taste your first wine in the company of people you know and trust, and who have cellphones to call 911 with. It is not too common, except in people of Asian descent, to be intolerant to wine. If after the first few sips of wine, symptoms start to appear, stop drinking and alert someone nearby.