Does Alcohol Cause Asthma Attacks?

Asthma is one of the top ten reasons for Emergency Department visits in the USA. There are many triggers for asthma that  include allergies to food such as nuts and chemical allergies. One of the types of food allergies you could have is an allergy to alcohol. Asthma is often your body’s response to this allergy.

In an Australian study(1), scientists analyzed alcohols role as an asthma trigger. With 300 participants they found that alcohol triggered asthma attacks were fast acting but also subsided quickly when treatment was given. They were treated with inhalers and inflammation reducing medication to achieve reversal of symptoms.

alcohol and asthmaWhat Types Of Alcohol Cause Asthma Attacks?

Wine came out on top of the list of alcoholic drinks likely to trigger an asthmatic response. Of all the people who said they had asthma attacks caused by drinking alcohol, 92% said it came about after drinking wine.

Risk factors for a wine induced asthma attack were being female,taking steroids or those who had their first asthma attack young.

They also analyzed whiskey,brandy and vodka and found that they did not appear to cause such a response in  asthmatics leading scientists to conclude that the allergy was not due to the alcohol contained in wine, but to the sulphites it contains.

Can Alcohol be beneficial for asthma?

A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in October 2001, stated that alcohol in its purest form of ethanol may have a positive effect on asthma. They trialled it only when a life-threatening asthma attack was underway and found it to be beneficial. This may seem counterintuitive to alcohol and asthma research, but pure alcohol has no allergens (2) and thus cannot cause an immune response.

Does maternal alcohol intake cause asthma in children?

Lots of research has been carried out into drinking alcohol during pregnancy, and in one study from China they focussed on whether alcohol intake during pregnancy can lead to asthma in their children. No link was found. Of course it is not recommended to drink during pregnancy due to the risk of birth defects (3).

Curing Asthma

There is currently no known cure for asthma, although the condition can be managed by the correct use of inhalers and medication. It is important to seek advice from a medical professional to guide your treatment decisions.


(1) Respiratory Reviews:  Wine found to be a common culprit in alcohol-induced asthma

(2) The American Journal of Emergency Medicine: The Role of Alcohol in Asthma

(3) Journal of Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research: Prenatal Maternal Alcohol Consumption and Hospitalization With Asthma in Childhood: A Population-Based Follow-Up Study

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