If you have ever had an adverse reaction after drinking alcohol, you may be wondering, “Can alcohol cause hives?” According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), alcohol consumption can sometimes cause and worsen hives.

How to Know If Alcohol Is Causing Your Hives

An alcohol allergy test may be necessary to determine if alcohol is causing your hives. The ASCIA reports that alcohol allergy tests tend to produce negative results, but some people may test positive for allergies to acetaldehyde or acetic acid, which are produced with the breakdown of ethanol.

Alcohol might be causing your hives if:

  • You experience flushing of the skin after drinking
  • You’re allergic to a specific ingredient in alcohol
  • You have a genetic metabolic dysfunction

Skin Flushing Can Indicate Alcohol-Induced Hives

The Cleveland Clinic advises that flushing of the skin (usually the face) after drinking alcohol is a sign that you have an allergy. If you experience flushing of the face after consuming an alcoholic beverage, there is a chance alcohol is causing your hives. You can consult with a doctor, who can review your symptoms and perform an ethanol patch test to detect an allergic reaction to alcohol.

Alcohol Ingredients That Can Cause Allergies

Alcoholic beverages can contain a variety of ingredients which can cause an alcohol allergy, including:

  • Grapes
  • Yeast
  • Hops
  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Salicylates
  • Metabisulfites

Metabolic Dysfunction Can Cause Alcohol Allergy

According to the Cleveland Clinic, genetic metabolic dysfunction can also cause an allergic reaction to alcohol. When the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase does not properly breakdown acetaldehyde, it builds up in your body and can cause reactions like hives.

In addition, acetaldehyde can cause the release of a chemical called histamine and produce inflammation.

Can Alcohol Make Hives and Skin Conditions Worse?

If you are sensitive to alcohol, drinking can cause an allergic reaction and make your hives worse. One study with a patient with a history of hives found that levels of tryptase, a marker of an immune system response, increased with alcohol consumption. The patient developed hives on the chest and upper arms just minutes after drinking alcohol, suggesting that the alcohol caused the hives.

Alcohol consumption could worsen other skin conditions. For example, a review of the research shows that alcohol consumption is linked to psoriasis.

Treatment for Hives Caused by Alcohol

You will likely have to restrict or eliminate alcohol from your diet if it causes an allergic reaction and results in the appearance of hives. Some people who experience hives caused by alcohol may have difficulty giving up drinking, despite the unpleasant side effects.

If you are finding it difficult to give up alcohol even though it causes hives, it is possible you are experiencing alcohol addiction. Treatment for alcohol addiction may be necessary to make it possible for you to stop drinking and find relief from hives.

If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village has locations across the country and can provide comprehensive treatment services to help you recover. Reach out to a representative today to begin your journey toward healing. Your call is free and confidential, and there is no obligation to commit to treatment at The Recovery Village.

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. “Alcohol allergy.” March 2019. Accessed April 28, 2019.

Cleveland Clinic. “Alcohol intolerance.” November 7, 2017. Accessed April 28, 2019.

Emonet, S., et al. “Ethanol-induced urticaria: Elevated tryptase levels after double-blind, placebo-controlled challenge.” Dermatology, 1998. Accessed April 28, 2019.

Brenaut, E., et al. “Alcohol consumption and psoriasis: A systematic literature review.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, August 2013. Accessed April 28, 2019.