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Celebrate safely

Individuals with allergies may want to think twice before ringing in the New Year with alcoholic beverages which can trigger symptoms in some, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

The problem is not alcohol allergy but rather sensitivity to the ingredients, such as yeast, sulfur dioxide and additives. Expect more than a headache the next day if you are sensitive. Common side effects include hives, skin rashes, flushing and warmth of skin, bronchial spasm or shortness of breath.

Alcoholic beverages contain many ingredients that can create issues but the preservative, sulfur dioxide, used in wine, including champagne, is most often the cause of allergic reactions. One in every 100 adults is sensitive to sulfites, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Sulfites are responsible for serious reactions in five percent of individuals with asthma.

Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative in many foods, including dried fruit, baked goods, condiments, canned foods, shellfish, canned tomatoes, frozen shrimp, frozen potatoes and fruit juices. If you react to these foods, you also may have problems with wine.

Histamine is another ingredient found in alcoholic beverages that may produce reactions. It is a by product of bacteria and yeast in the beverages. The amount of histamine in alcohol is small but consuming large quantities can cause a runny or stuffy nose; itchy, watery eyes; or worsening of asthma. Red wines contain more histamines than white wines.

Individuals with sensitivity to wheat, barley or rye should avoid beer unless itís gluten-free beer. Reactions may occur within minutes, hours or even the next day. Symptoms include a worsening of asthma symptoms; runny or stuffy nose; watery eyes; swelling of the lips, tongue or throat; difficulty breathing; skin rashes; or lightheadness.

Sensitive individuals should be wary of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages used in cooking their favorite recipes. An allergist can help you determine what ingredients may be causing your problems.

Try to encourage others to join you in avoiding alcoholic beverages because of the health risks associated with consuming them. It is possible to toast the New Year without alcoholic beverages. Try ginger ale or non-alcoholic champagne.


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