Have a Hangover? Maybe It's Just Allergies

By Bryan Le 02/17/14

Drink all the water and eat all the fatty food you want, those won't cure an allergic reaction to an ingredient in your drink.

Take a Sudafed instead? Shutterstock

While common knowledge may dictate that hangovers are caused by alcohol itself—usually by dehydration or overworking the body's ability to purge toxins—your morning headache and nausea might actually be an allergic reaction.

"It is usually not the alcohol itself that produces the reaction. It is most likely ingredients, such as sulfur dioxide [metabisulfite], yeast and additives. Common allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, flushing and warmth of the skin, bronchospasm or shortness of breath, especially in those with asthma," says Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, chairman of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's Public Education Committee.

Alcohols are made with such a wide spectrum of ingredients, it can be difficult to track down exactly what's causing that pounding next-morning headache. Sulfur Dioxide and sulfites, substances naturally created when producing alcohol that can set off anaphylactic shock in athsmatics, are prime candidates. Other common ingredients that also happen to be known allergens are gluten, wheat, histamine, yeast, tree nuts, and even grapes.

If a person experiences hives, anaphylaxis, nasal swelling and congestion, headache, nausea, heartburn or rapid heartbeat after drinking alcohol they may want to see a doctor and get tested. Alternatively, switching to potato vodka—the most hypoallergenic alcohol—might help, too.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter