Blocked nose? How your hay fever symptoms could be sign of alcohol intolerance

Chris Evans reveals he's given up drinking alcohol midweek

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With pollen levels at their highest during the summer, hay fever sufferers will no doubt be struggling with a range of symptoms. Hay fever often presents with cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, a blocked nose, sinus pressure and congestion. Itchy or stinging eyes, headache, earache and feeling tired are also signs of hay fever.

Hay fever can be treated in a range of ways – from taking antihistamines to changing clothes after being outside, vacuuming regularly and keeping windows closed.

Nasal sprays and eye drops can also help relieve symptoms.

However, before you dismiss your symptoms as hay fever – blocked nose, itchy eyes and headache are also quite similar to another condition – alcohol intolerance.

Alcohol intolerance is a condition which may occur suddenly or later in life, or you may have had it all of your life.

Read More: Delta variant symptoms: The difference between COVID-19 and hay fever

Have you ever woken up with a stuffy nose after a night of drinking? This may be why.

Symptoms of alcohol intolerance include

  • Facial redness (flushing)
  • Red, itchy skin bumps (hives)
  • Worsening of pre-existing asthma
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Perhaps the most noticeable symptom is flushing red across your face, chest and neck when you drink alcohol.

If you do flush red this means you are able to break down alcohol into acetaldehyde, but you don’t have the enzyme ALDH2.

This enzyme processes the very toxic acetaldehyde into harmless substances which can be flushed out of your system.

You may notice the symptoms flare up or are worse after certain beverages.

The MayoClinic explains: “Alcohol intolerance occurs when your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolise) the toxins in alcohol.

“This is caused by inherited (genetic) traits most often found in Asians.

“Other ingredients commonly found in alcoholic beverages, especially in beer or wine, can cause intolerance reactions.”

These ingredients include:

  • Sulfites or other preservatives
  • Chemicals, grains or other ingredients
  • Histamine, a byproduct of fermentation or brewing

Confusingly, having hay fever is a risk factor for developing alcohol intolerance.

The Mayo Clinic lists risk factors as

  • Being of Asian descent
  • Having asthma or hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Having an allergy to grains or to another food
  • Having Hodgkin’s lymphoma

While most cases tend to be mild, having an alcohol intolerance can cause some more severe symptoms such as

  • Migraines
  • A severe allergic reaction

Having a stuffy nose after drinking does not require a trip to the doctor, however, if you are in discomfort for a long period of time it may be worth booking a GP appointment.

You can’t prevent reactions to alcohol, however, you can lessen symptoms by reducing your alcohol intake or avoiding certain drinks which make symptoms worse.

If you know which ingredients affect you, try reading beverage labels to see whether they contain these.

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