alcohol and hay fever

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is thought to affect between 10 and 30% of all adults and up to 40% of children.[1]

But studies have suggested that the symptoms of hay fever – such as sneezing, coughing and a runny nose – could be made worse when alcohol is consumed. Let’s take a closer look at this theory.

How does alcohol worsen symptoms?

Alcohol can indeed make hay fever symptoms feel worse, but it’s not the alcohol itself which does this, it’s the substances found within your alcoholic beverage.[2]

Beer, wine and many liquors all contain histamine. This is produced by yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process.[3] The problem with this is that histamine is the very substance we are trying to defend ourselves against in the hay fever cycle.[4] Hence why hay fever medication is often referred to as “antihistamines”.

This link between alcohol and hay fever has been shown time and time again through research. For example, one 2005 study based in Sweden saw scientists examine thousands of participants. They found that those diagnosed with hay fever, asthma or bronchitis were far more likely to experience symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and ”lower airway symptoms” after having a drink.[5]

Are some drinks worse than others?

Alcoholic drinks like red wine, white wine, cider and beer are more likely to trigger your hay fever symptoms as they contain higher levels of histamines. Meanwhile, clear spirits like gin and vodka are less likely to trigger a reaction from hay fever sufferers as they contain lower histamine levels.[6]

So if you’re a hay fever sufferer, you may want to opt for a gin and tonic rather than a pint this summer.

Again, this has been shown through research. One study of thousands of women in 2008 found that having more than two glasses of wine a day almost doubles the risk of hay fever symptoms, even among participants who didn’t suffer from the condition at the start of the study.[7]

What else contains histamines?

Unfortunately, alcohol isn’t the only substance which can aggravate hay fever symptoms thanks to high levels of histamines. In fact, histamines are common in many food items, including:

  • Pickled or canned foods
  • Smoked meat products
  • Matured cheeses
  • Shellfish
  • Walnuts and cashew nuts
  • Vinegar
  • Chickpeas, soy beans and peanuts
  • Ready meals
  • Some salty snacks
  • Chocolate and other cocoa based products[8]

So if you’re suffering from significant hay fever symptoms, examining your diet may be a good place to start when it comes to treating them.

Treating hay fever this summer

The following measures are recommended for dealing with hay fever during periods of high pollen:

  • Putting Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes
  • Staying indoors
  • Showering and changing your clothes after going outside
  • Keeping windows and doors shut
  • Hoovering regularly
  • Buying a pollen filter[9]

Antihistamine medication is also strongly advised, as this can help you enjoy your summer more freely without worrying about your symptoms becoming uncomfortable or debilitating.

You can find safe and effective hay fever relief medication at Express Pharmacy. Get in touch with our team today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.

[1] Allergy UK. Statistics. 2019.

[2] Asthma UK. Asthma and alcohol. 2018.

[3] O’Connor, A. The Claim: Alcohol Worsens Allergies. The New York Times. 2010.

[4] McKenna, P. PhD. speaking to Harvey-Jenner, C. Why drinking alcohol will make your hay fever worse. Cosmopolitan UK. 2018.

[5] Nihlen, U. Greiff, LJ., Nyberg, P., Persson, CG., Andersson, M. Alcohol-induced upper airway symptoms: prevalence and co-morbidity. Respiratory Medicine. 2005.

[6] Asthma UK. Asthma and alcohol. 2018.

[7] Bendtsen, P. et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of self-reported perennial and season allergic rhinitis in young adult women in a population-based cohort study. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 2008.

[8] Histamine Intolerance Awareness. The Food List. 2017.

[9] NHS UK. Hay fever. 2017.