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By
Matthew Krimmel

What Is A Wine Allergy And Wine Allergy Symptoms?

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Allergies are no fun. A wine allergy is even worse.

You get together with some friends to enjoy a glass or two of wine but end up feeling terrible. What happened?

If you feel tired or itchy, or have sinus pressure, you might be suffering from a wine allergy. Some people may even have more dangerous symptoms that put them in the hospital. Wine allergies are not dissimilar to food allergies and should be taken seriously.

If you're concerned you are allergic to wine read on to learn about the different types of wine allergies. We've also covered gluten free wine brands and sensitivities.

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Wine Allergy

Wine sensitivities are fairly common, but true wine allergies are rare. Sufferers' symptoms can range from mild sensitivities to dangerous. Nasal congestion, headaches, and more may plague you after drinking a glass of wine. Pay attention to how you feel after drinking a particular wine varietal.

Drinking wine may not always cause a reaction, as winemakers create their wines in different ways. You could drink wine for years and not discover an allergy until you have a particular wine. The level of risk involved depends on the intensity of the person's allergies and what particular compound in wine they are allergic to.

Red Wine Allergy

People who suffer from wine allergies are more likely to have reactions to red wines than white wines. One issue may be an allergy to alcohol itself. Red wines have a higher wine alcohol content than white wines. A person with this allergy may not experience symptoms when drinking white wine.

Another cause could be the presence of high levels of histamine. Histamine is a chemical that naturally occurs in the body and in various foods and drinks.

Allergy sufferers have an intolerance to histamine that can cause a range of symptoms from itchy skin to shortness of breath and more. Red wine has a higher concentration of histamine than other alcoholic beverages. Red wine is also notorious for its stains, so make sure you have a wine stain remover if you aren't allergic.

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White Wine Allergy

White wine allergies are less common than red wine allergies but may cause harsher allergic reactions. You may be allergic to both types of wine, or just white wines depending on what compound in the wine you’re allergic to.

White wines have lower levels of histamine than red wines, so you’re likely to be allergic to both if this is what sets off your allergies. Sulfite levels are much higher in white wines, so you may not have an issue drinking red wines. Sulfite allergies are dangerous, too, and can cause breathing issues and asthma attacks.

The differences between compounds in red and white wines are related to the way wines are fermented. You can learn more about the fermentation process and how red wine and white wines differ by picking up a book about wine.

Wine Allergy Symptoms

Wine allergy symptoms vary in type and severity based on the individual and the wine consumed. In general, the most common reaction is an itchy rash and flushed appearance. However, some drinkers can experience breathing difficulties, so it’s important to seek help if a moderate or worse reaction occurs.

People with sulfite allergies or sulfite sensitivity can have adverse reactions to drinking wine and beer. Sulfites are chemical compounds that are commonly used as preservatives. Winemakers and beer brewers often add sulfites to inhibit yeast growth and achieve their goal of fermentation. Sulfite allergies can present differently than other wine allergies and be more serious. Sulfite allergies can induce asthma attacks, so consult a doctor before drinking wine if you believe you may have one.

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Red Wine Allergy Symptoms

Red wine allergy symptoms may vary from person-to-person, but common symptoms include itchiness, hives, headaches, flushed or swelling skin, or even breathing problems. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild inconveniences to dangerous breathing problems. If you think you may be allergic, stop drinking wine and consult your doctor.

White Wine Allergy Symptoms

White wine allergies are less common than red wine allergies, but may cause harsher allergic reactions. You may be allergic to both types of wine, or just white wines depending on what compound in the wine you’re allergic to. White wines have lower levels of histamine than red wines, so you’re likely to be allergic to both if this is what sets off your allergies. Sulfite levels are much higher in white wines, so you may not have an issue drinking red wines. Sulfite allergies are dangerous, too, and can cause breathing issues and asthma attacks.

The differences between compounds in red and white wines are related to the way wines are fermented. You can learn more about the fermentation process and how red wine and white wines differ by picking up a book about wine.

Wine Allergy Rash Pictures

If you’ve broken out in a rash or are generally concerned that you might have a wine allergy, here are a couple pictures of wine allergy rashes on peoples' backs to compare. Remember, symptoms vary greatly, so see a doctor if you are concerned that you have a wine allergy. There’s no reason to risk it.

Wine Allergy Rash on Back
Credit: James Heilman, MD CC BY-SA 3.0
Hives on back

Frequently Asked Questions About Wine Allergies

If you think you may have a wine allergy, or you simply want to learn more, these common questions will help you along:

What To Do If You Experience Nasal Congestion After Drinking Alcohol?

If you do experience an allergic reaction in a mild form, like some nasal congestion, the best thing you can do is, one, not drink that alcohol until you can consult with an allergy specialist, and two, although this one will come first, take some allergy meds if the nasal congestion is quite bothersome. If you don't have allergy meds on hand, taking a hot bath, or even a steamy shower to clear your nasal passages, will go a long way to making you feel refreshed.

How Serious Are Wine Allergies?

For some people, wine allergies are mild, and won't stop them from enjoying wine from time to time. However, wine allergies can be just as severe as any other allergy. If you think you have a wine allergy, err on the side of caution and see a specialist just in case. In some cases, wine allergy reactions can result in anaphylactic shock.

If I Have Wine Allergies, Do I Have Beer Allergies?

We're not medical experts, so this isn't the place for a specific answer to this question. That said, according the Healthline, "beer does share some potential allergens with wine, such as ethanol, sulfites, and yeast. Therefore, it’s possible to have an allergy to both beer and wine." If you think you might be allergic to wine or beer, see an allergy specialist before you make any major drinking decisions.

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Wine Allergies Aren't Fun

Wine allergies and sensitivities can put a damper on your ability to enjoy wine. If you have any questions regarding wine allergies, speak to your doctor. You don't want to find out you have a wine allergy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you run a bar or restaurant you should make sure to add an allergy warning to your wine list to avoid any confusion. Luckily, customers can bring their own wine to many restaurants to avoid the issue as long as they pay a small corkage fee.

Now, if you don't have allergies or have them under control, get out there and enjoy some wine. Maybe pick up a whole case of wine now that you know it's safe to drink or grab a new electric wine opener or wine pourer to avoid any nasty spills. You should also grab the best wine decanter so you can get the most flavor out of your wine and learn how to clean a decanter.

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