It's easy to spend most of the holidays (and beyond) with a glass of wine in hand, but could your favorite evening beverage be making you sick? A little buzz definitely isn't worth the ongoing pain of an allergic reaction, but you might not even have ever noticed that wine routinely causes certain symptoms. For all but the most serious of wine allergies, symptoms can be mild and easily mistaken for seasonal allergies, a cold, or a hangover.
Although it's possible for people to be allergic to alcohol in general, wine-specific allergies are more likely to be caused by sulfites, histamine, or other compounds in wine (that may be found in lower levels or not at all in other alcoholic beverages). Red wine tends to contain more of these sometimes-problematic components than white wine, because several originate in the grapes' skin (and are therefore left out of white wine). Though the skins of grapes may be responsible for some of wine's health benefits, they're outweighed by the negatives of an actual allergic reaction. Here are some ways to tell:
1. You're A Woman
Disappointingly, according to one study, women are twice as likely to have a wine allergy than men. Obviously, this isn't enough information to diagnose anyone. But right off the bat you're more likely than a guy to need to lay off the adult juice. Bummer.
2. You're Wheezing Or Having Other Trouble Breathing
Wheezing, labored breathing, coughing, and other respiratory symptoms can be caused by the sulfites in wine (especially if you have asthma). It's normal to be tired at the end of the night out, but it's not normal to be having trouble breathing, so if you find yourself hacking up a storm before you finally get in bed then it might have been that wine.
3. You've Got A Headache
Wine commonly contains histamine, and histamine in your body commonly produces allergic reactions and headaches. Think seasonal allergy symptoms that hit you like a wall the morning after the fun. Before you skip the wine altogether, you might try one of the low-histamine wines on the market, though.
4. Your Skin Freaks Out
Hives, flushing, and rashes are a pretty non-specific reaction to irritants. You could be developing them as a reaction to the alcohol, the sulfites, or the histamine, or in connection with a medication you're taking or a pre-existing condition like rosacea. But if you notice a correlation with your wine consumption, then that's at least a clue.
5. You Switch Drinks And Feel Better
Though testing for wine-related allergies is complicated due to wine's many chemical compounds, there are some simpler tests you can perform yourself to conclude that you probably have a wine-related reaction. If you can switch to beer or liquor and consume as many units of alcohol as you normally would without similar reactions, then that's all the info you need.