Alcoholcan sometimes trigger asthma so you may find your asthma symptoms get worse when you drink.
Some people experience asthma symptoms when they drink any kind of alcohol, while others may only have symptoms that are triggered by a particular type of drink such as wine or beer. Research suggests this may be because of the various additives found in alcoholic drinks, rather than the alcohol itself.
Alcoholic drinks usually contain ethanol and a complex mixture of grape, yeast, hop, barley or wheat-derived substances, natural food chemicals such as salicylates, and sulphite preservatives such as 'metabisulphite'. "Fining agents" may also be used to remove particulate matter during the manufacturing process. These may include the use of egg protein in some wines or seafood proteins in some beers. Histamine is also present in some wines, but particularly in red ones.
In general, there is more sulphite preservative in white wine than red wine, and more in cask wine than bottled wine. The amount of sulphite also varies from brand to brand but is at much higher concentrations in white wine than red, because in red wine natural tannins help preserve the beverage. Some "low sulphite" wines are available, although those with extreme sensitivity may not be able to tolerate them, as sulphur powder is sometimes dusted over grapes in the weeks leading up to harvest . Other sources of metabisulphite include vinegar, pickled onions, dried fruit, or when dusted onto crustaceans and some restaurant salads or fruit salads.
Some winemakers produce wines and state that they do not add sulphites into the wine but because of the technical processes of manufacture, there may still be very low levels of sulphites present, even when not added to the wine itself.
People with asthma sometimes find that their individual triggers can change, so if you've noticed that an alcoholic drink has only become a trigger recently when it wasn't before, this is quite a common experience. Another point to bear in mind is that having a reaction to triggers may sometimes indicate asthma control is not as good as it.
Some interesting points about triggers:
- People with asthma sometimes find that their individual triggers can change, so if you notice that an alcoholic drink has only become a trigger recently when it wasn't before, then try to avoid this drink in the future.
- Having a reaction to alcohol may indicate that your asthma control is not as good as it could be, so it may be worth visiting your doctor or asthma nurse for an asthma review.
- If you drink alcohol a lot, you can end up feeling depressed which in turn might have a negative impact on your asthma management.
Our top tips
- If you find that a particular drink makes your asthma worse try to avoid it and whatever you're drinking, make sure you keep your reliever inhaler with you at all times.
- Know your limits - check out Drinkaware's Unit Calculator to track what you're drinking over time and get more facts about alcohol and your health.