Doctor warns four skin warning signs could mean you’re allergic to booze

By Staff 6 Min Read

Dr Emma Cunningham has shared four warning signs you’re intolerant or allergic to booze – including one ‘severe’ reaction that requires immediate medical attention

With the weather improving, it’s only a matter of time before Brits flock to the pub for a session in the sun.

Whilst many of us enjoy a tipple or two, most are unaware that you can be both intolerant and allergic to certain alcohol. And no, waking up with a banging headache doesn’t mean you’ve had an allergic reaction – you’re probably just dehydrated.

“While some people may experience hangovers because of consuming alcohol, it’s important to note that a hangover itself is not an allergic reaction,” affirms Dr Emma Cunningham, an aesthetics doctor and founder of Dr Emma Clinics. “However, some individuals may be allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients found in alcoholic beverages, which can manifest as skin reactions.”

So, let’s take a look at four possible signs you’re actually allergic to booze.

Alcohol Flush Reaction

Dr Cunningham warns that alcohol may cause blood vessels to dilate, which can lead to ‘flushed or red skin’. This tends to appear around the face or neck but can present itself all over the body.

“Alcohol flush reaction is often due to a genetic deficiency in an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2),” the expert added. “The deficiency causes people to metabolise alcohol less effectively, leading to the release of histamine, causing a flushed reaction.” Whilst anti-histamines may reduce the symptoms of alcohol flush reaction, they will not ‘safeguard the body from the impact of acetaldehyde’.


“An allergic reaction to alcohol can manifest as hives, which are raised, red, and itchy bumps on the skin,” Dr Cunningham explains. She states this reaction is more often than not caused by an ‘immune response’ to certain ingredients in your drink – including grains, yeast and sulphites.

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Contact dermatitis

If you’re suffering with redness, itching, and even blistering skin – it could be a sign of contact dermatitis. This often occurs from direct contact with certain alcohols, so is more common in bartenders or brewers.

“It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other factors, such as dehydration, histamine release, or sensitivity to specific ingredients in alcoholic beverages,” Dr Cunningham warns. “If you suspect you may have an allergy or intolerance to alcohol, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management.”


Medically known as angioedema, if you ever notice your tongue, lips, face or throat has started to swell after drinking alcohol you should seek medical attention immediately. You may be giving anti-histamine medication or even steroid tablets to help with the swelling.

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