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is alcohol proven to make asthma symptoms worse?

everytime i have alcohol it makes me weezy and tight from the first touch of it in my mouth . i used to be fine with alcohol but just recently after getting very drunk i have had a real problem with it and its like my body cant tolerate it anymore. am i just ultra- sensitive to it now or is alcohol bad for asthmatics?



6 Replies

Hi Hannah,

There's a few possibilities going on here. Alcohol itself can make some people wheezy - it's particularly common in Japanese people because they often lack one of the enzymes needed to break down alcohol, which means that when the alcohol does break down it provokes histamine release. It's thought that this can also happen in non-Oriental people, which might explain your symptoms.

Also, a lot of cheap drinks such as cheap wine, beer, and cider contain other chemicals such as sulfites, which are definately triggers in lots of people. I notice I get flushed and wheezy with cheap wine - expensive/organic wines are less of a problem. Convincing others that this is a genuine reaction is more of a problem!

I also find that drinking to excess will worsen my asthma, not necessarily because of the drink itself but because when I've been drinking I'm less likely to notice and avoid triggers like cigarette smoke, more likely to overdo things physically, and less likely to recognise the early signs of an attack. I don't drink much any more purely for these reasons.

Also, Hannah, I noticed from your profile that you're only 14 - at the risk of sounding like a complete bore, at that age you are still pretty young to be drinking. Your liver may not be fully developed or equipped to deal with being poisoned by alcohol, and your brain is much more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol-induced brain damage. I know a lot of your friends are probably going out and getting drunk on a regular basis, but perhaps you should see the fact that you don't seem to be able to tolerate it as a blessing in disguise at the moment. I would steer clear of it for now, or perhaps confine your experiments to the odd glass of (expensive, naturally!) wine with dinner if your parents will let you, and see how you tolerate that. The last thing you want is to turn up in A&E roaring drunk and in an acute asthma attack - very embarrassing for all concerned! (Hmmm.... the responder is in no way commenting on whether this may or may not have happened to her in her student days... some things are best forgotten!)

Sorry to lecture... hope this helps, anyway

Em H


Dare I jump in first and say....if your profile age is correct - go steady on the alcohol, I wouldn't have thought you should be drinking on a regular basis, and getting drunk isn't a good plan either.

That aside, many wines do contain sulphites as preservatives, which are know to make asthma worse in some people.


Ooops cross-posted - see EmH, great minds and all that...!


Hi Hannah,

I just have to respond to your question. My 19 year old son has fainted twice while drinking alcohol during asthma attacks, once he went into cardiopulmonary arrest. The doctors told me that the alcohol depresses breathing so if there is an underlying problem such as asthma it exacerbates it extremely. And as others have mentioned it decreases your ability to monitor your symptoms. So please don't drink excessively or better yet, wait until you are 18.




As both Cath and Emily have said, one of the things that might be effecting you are the sulphites found in most wines (and most other alcoholic drinks too, for that matter). I'm one of those strange weirdos who's actually severely allergic to sulphites (along with most other preservatives), and while you'd know if this was the case with you (though you may have a sensitivity to them, without full allergic response), sulphites can still effect asthmatics. Part of the problem is that the 'fumes' from the sulphites in the drink react with the oxygen in the air, coming together to makes sulphur dioxide. This is often then inhaled, which in turn often causes problems in people with asthma. There's no easy way around this, except ensuring that what you are drinking is sulphite-free, and this can only be done reliably by contacting the manufacturers. And just to add a note to Emily's post, organic does not guarantee preservative/sulphite-free, and actually, I haven't yet found an organic wine that doesn't contain sulphites. So, if you do opt to drink alcohol, and t.he sulphites are the problem, then you need to be absolutely sure of what you are drinking.

I hope some of this helps


(making (relatively) no mention of your age ;oP )


thanks guys, that helped a bit to know i wasnt really odd and it happens occaisonnaly to others as well.

are there sulphites in all alcohol or jut some types ?


- yes my profile age is correct but its christmas everyone has a little drink !


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