Does alcohol affect asthma

Does Alcohol Worsen Asthma?

Q1. After I have a couple of drinks, my asthma gets bad. The next day I have to use my inhaler a lot. Does alcohol cause asthma to worsen?

— Diane, Illinois

Yes, alcohol can cause asthma to worsen. One possible reason is that alcohol can cause various degrees of acid reflux. In this common condition, acidic stomach fluids bubble up into the food tube (esophagus) and sometimes make their way into the breathing tubes via the back of the throat. This may also happen shortly after eating, or during the night as you sleep. Any acid in the breathing tubes is very aggravating, causing swelling and the production of mucus.

Another possible reason your asthma might worsen after drinking is a sensitivity to sulfites, preservatives used mostly in wines and beers that can increase symptoms in people with asthma. (Sulfites are usually innocuous for people without asthma.)

Finally, wine and beer (the fermented drinks) are complex mixtures of natural chemicals, some of which resemble histamine, the chemical our bodies make during allergic reactions. These histamine-like chemicals are thought to cause the alcohol-induced nasal stuffiness that bothers so many people. People with asthma may react to these chemicals with increased asthma symptoms.

Q2. I am an adult-onset asthmatic of 10 years. As of recently, I have noticed bruising on my thighs and upper arms. The bruising occurs while I am asleep. I recently checked my sugar and it was normal. I do have high blood pressure also. Can you tell me what is causing the bruising?

Asthma does not typically result in bruising. There may be another illness underlying your condition that needs to be investigated. All of your current medications should be reviewed for hidden side effects, and your doctor should order blood tests to evaluate the function of your platelets and clotting factors.

Q3. About two weeks ago, I started taking some herbal pills (prescribed by a world-renowned Ayurvedic practitioner) for osteoarthritis , constipation , and weight loss . I do suffer from occasional asthma (cause unknown), so I do have my albuterol inhaler prescription. Is it possible that any of these Ayurvedic pills/herbs could trigger my asthma, or have a side effect on my respiratory system? I have been feeling a constricted sort of feeling, and difficulty breathing, right after I take the pills, and have to use my inhaler, more often than I have ever used. I would highly appreciate your educated advice and a response to my concern. Thank you.

Anytime a new remedy is added to an existing therapeutic regimen, side effects may occur and the simplest action is to discontinue the newest treatment to see if the symptoms resolve.

Ayurvedic medicines are made from herbs or mixtures of herbs, combined with minerals and other animal-derived ingredients. Unfortunately, herbal and Ayuvedic remedies are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is very little literature on their efficacy and side effects. The primary concern with these remedies, as noted in a 2004 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the presence of toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury

Q4. Can drinking alcohol trigger an asthma attack?

A study done in Australia and published in 2000 concluded that alcoholic drinks, and particularly wines, appear to be important triggers of asthmatic responses. Sensitivity to the sulfite additives in wines seems likely to play an important role in many of these reactions.

Q5. My doctor has told me that as soon as I start coughing I should take my Advair (salmeterol/fluticasone). Yet I have read articles where Advair can start an asthma attack. I’m confused.

Generally, Advair is used to control asthma, and it is not to be used for acute relief but rather as a controller medicine. There may be a small subset of patients who may worsen from the salmeterol component of asthma, but most people will not experience a worsening but rather have an improvement in their asthma.

Q6. My now 14-, 13- and 7-year-old children developed asthma three years ago after being exposed to mold. We lived in our home during the yearlong remediation process. They had no prior lung problems. For the last three winters, they have had respiratory distress. My question is, with this type of asthma, is there a chance that their symptoms will lessen over the years as their lungs mature?

It is impossible to predict what will happen to their symptoms, but they may worsen, improve or remain essentially the same as they get older. Your children should follow up with their physician(s) for continued evaluation and treatment of their asthma.

Q7. What are some asthma triggers I should watch out for this summer?

Most asthma triggers exist year-round. We are talking about viral infections (colds), airborne irritants such as cigarette smoke and strong odors, and allergies to indoor allergens (e.g., dust mites and molds). But if you are allergic to grass, leave the mowing to someone else. If you are allergic to ragweed, stay indoors during the height of the season in your area. When on vacation, carry your own (hypoallergenic) pillow; do not visit friends and relatives with pets to which you are allergic; and mostly, bring not only your regular medication but also some extra medication prescribed by your physician (nebulized medication, prednisone, etc.) to be taken in case of an exacerbation of your asthma when out of town.

Q8. My asthma tends to worsen at night. Is there anything I should be looking for in my environment that may be triggering this?

Acid reflux may be worse at night and contribute to nighttime symptoms, but also it is not unusual for asthma to worsen at night without any specific trigger.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Asthma Center.

Can Drinking Alcohol Trigger an Asthma Attack?

Alcohol consumption can have a direct effect on your asthma, but is it the alcohol that’s causing you to have an asthma attack? If so, what does this mean for you? Learn more about the connection and if you should still drink alcoholic beverages.

How Does Asthma Affect the Body?

Although doctors still don’t fully understand asthma, it’s clear it’s severity falls on a spectrum. Because of this, the way you’re affected by asthma may not be the same way that someone else is affected by asthma.

For some people, asthma is fairly easy to manage. The symptoms may be considered inconvenient. These could include coughing, wheezing, and general shortness of breath a few times during the week or month. Symptoms may get worse when exercising or during any type of physical exertion.

For some people, though, attacks occur more frequently. They can also happen when you’re sleeping. If this sounds familiar, your asthma may make it harder for you to participate in a significant amount of physical activity. You may be able to participate with the help of a medicated inhaler.

Regardless of how severe your asthma is, an attack will appear the same internally. Your airways will have a bronchospasm. This is a tightening around your airways. The mucus in the inflamed airways will also thicken, which can make it difficult to breathe.

What Does Alcohol Have to Do with Asthma?

Although there’s a lot that researchers are still figuring out about the connection between alcohol and asthma, studies show that alcohol can make symptoms worse. It can also trigger a full-blown asthma attack.

Histamines and sulfites, two ingredients in various types of alcohol, tend to be the culprit.


Histamines are produced from bacteria and yeast when alcohol ferments. They’re especially prevalent in red wine. Histamines are a known problem for people with allergies. This is especially true for those with asthma.


Sulfites can also cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to them. Up to 10 percent of people who are dealing with asthma are sensitive to these additives. This sensitivity can cause a range of symptoms. Some people may experience wheezing, and other may have an asthma attack. People with more severe asthmatic symptoms should be more cautious when drinking.

Are Any Alcoholic Beverages Safe to Drink?

It’s important to remember that not everyone with asthma experiences the onset or worsening of an attack when drinking alcohol. In one study, about 33 percent of participants said alcohol was associated with an asthmatic event at least two times.

Wine, which contains both sulfites and histamines, was the number one culprit when it came to inducing symptoms. White wine typically contains less histamines than a heartier red wine or a sparkling white. Wines that are 100 percent organic have no added sulfates or are free of sulfates.

The same study also found that out of the subjects who had reactions, 40 percent of those reactions were caused by wine. Overall, red wine was said to be the most common inducer.

Research also shows that wine brought on a relatively quick start to asthma complications. These complications usually start within less than an hour.

There are options available that are low in sulfites and histamines or are completely free of these components. Spirits tend to be better bets than beer, hard ciders, and wines. It’s worth noting that many drink mixers may also contain sulfites because they have preservatives in them.

Read more: Common asthma triggers and how to avoid them “

What Are Some Alternatives?

The rise of niche cocktails has lead to the creation of the mocktail. A mocktail can be just as refreshing and festive as a cocktail, and it comes without potential side effects.

Sulfites are preservatives that can often be found in mixers. When ordering a mocktail, be sure to look for one that has fresh ingredients.

You can also search the kids’ menu, or modify the drinks you used to order on special childhood occasions. How about a grown-up version of a Shirley Temple? Pair fresh cherry and lime juice paired with sparkling soda to create one.

Do you want to make a mocktail at home? That’s easy, too. Combine sparkling water with some fresh-squeezed juice, or muddled fruits and herbs.

What Is the Outlook?

The only way to make sure alcohol isn’t making your breathing more difficult is to avoid it entirely. Although alcohol may not have caused problems for you in the past, there’s still a chance that it may do so in the future. If you do drink alcohol, pay close attention to your breathing and take note of any changes.

Whenever you are drinking alcohol or doing any activity that makes your breathing more difficult, carry your inhaler with you and seek medical attention immediately if you aren’t able to catch your breath.

Alcohol and Asthma

Alcohol can cause an allergy-like reaction in people with and without asthma.1 These reactions include a wide range of symptoms such as breathing problems, hay fever, cough, swelling in the face, itching, eczema, and headache.2

People with asthma are more likely than others to report a reaction to alcohol.1 As many as 40% of people with asthma report that drinking alcohol can trigger an reaction.2 About 30% report that it makes their asthma worse. People with aspirin-induced asthma are especially at risk. One study showed that 51% of people with this type of asthma had wheezing or breathlessness after drinking alcohol, compared with 20% of people with other types of asthma and 0% of people with hay fever or no asthma/allergies.3

However, some people actually breathe easier after drinking alcohol. Ethanol—the type of alcohol found in beverages—is a bronchodilator.2 This means that it relaxes the smooth muscles around the airways, opening them up. It also lowers the immune system.

What type of alcohol is most likely to cause a reaction?

People may react to all types of alcohol.3 Wine is the most common culprit.2 Among people with asthma, 30.1% of wine drinkers report having an alcohol sensitivity, compared with 22.6% of beer drinkers.2 It is much less common to react to distilled alcohol.2

Why does alcohol cause a reaction?

The reaction to wine is usually blamed on sulfites. Sulfites are used in wine production to sterilize the barrels and control the growth of yeast and bacteria.2 They are also preservatives that are added to maintain the taste, smell, and look of beer and wine. Sulfites are also used to prevent potatoes, shrimp, and dried fruit from browning.4 Sulfite sensitivity is not a true “allergy,” because sulfites do not fire up the immune system.2

Other compounds in alcohol may also cause reactions. Some people cannot break down ethanol. This means that when they drink, the alcohol causes symptoms such as redness in the face, increased skin temperature, faster heart rate, nausea, and airway tightening. This type of reaction is particularly common among people of Asian ethnicity.2

Red wines can be high in histamine, the chemical that causes typical allergy symptoms. One study has shown that taking antihistamine medications before drinking red wine eliminated symptoms in most people.2 However, other studies have shown no link between the amount of histamine in wine and wine intolerance.2

Reactions to beer have not been well studied. They seem to be related to the barley or malt used to make beer.

Can I drink alcohol while taking asthma medications?

If you drink alcohol, it is a good idea to talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about the medications you are taking.

Zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo) are leukotriene modifiers that are sometimes used together with other asthma medications. These medications can affect the liver. The medication label for zileuton specifically recommends being cautious about using this medication if you drink heavily.5

Pub cycles whipping through the streets of downtown Asheville, amazing brewery tours where you can sample the most coveted brews in town, delicious wine tastings at the awe-inspiring Biltmore Estate, Brew-N-View movie theatres full of local draft beer and delicious pizzas. These are just a few of the popular 21 and up events that Asheville has to offer.

With the prominence of alcohol-related activities popping up in Asheville and cities across the country, many of us are led to question our drinking habits. But do these activities affect you more heavily if you are one of the 18 million Americans living with Asthma? The answer may surprise you.

According to an article in the March edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, many of the various forms of alcohol can have an adverse affect on asthmatics. Hassan Valley, author of the article, cites red wine as the biggest offender in causing alcohol-related asthma attacks and states that overall, a whopping 43% of all asthmatics in his study reported having some type of reaction to drinking alcohol in general.

While red wine and beer appear to be the main culprits in affecting individuals with asthma, some studies suggest that ingredients in hard liquor may actually improve some asthmatic symptoms. So what is the difference between these types of alcohol?

Dr. Myron Zitt of the Nassau University Medical Center in New York, suggests that the symptoms asthmatics may experience when drinking wine or beer may be caused from the sulfites that are in these types of alcohol. Zitt attributes these sulfites to causing “red, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, upset stomach, and difficulty breathing”, in individuals that have consumed wine and beer.

Hard liquor, on the other hand, is made with ethanol, which Zitt proposes may actually improve asthmatic symptoms by soothing the airways and allowing breathing to become easier.

So what can you, an asthma sufferer, take from this? Dr. Benjamin Gaston of the University of Virginia Health System in Charlotte, North Carolina, states that what Zitt’s study found is “true and useful to know”, but does that mean that an asthmatic should give up drinking alcohol? Of course not, however as with other areas in an asthmatics’ life, you must aim to be cautious and aware of how the various types of alcohol are affecting you. If having a glass of red wine at a local wine tasting flares up your asthma, go for a glass of white instead. If tasting the beers at your favorite brewery downtown makes breathing a little harder, opt for the samples of cider instead (I promise they are just as delicious).

For more information on living with asthma and how alcohol can affect your asthma, visit this . And for more information on respiratory health products available through your insurance, contact Aeroflow Healthcare today.

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You have probably heard that alcohol can have an impact on your asthma. But, does it cause the attack directly, or it is connected to asthma in some other way? In this article, we will tell you more about the connection between asthma and alcohol consumption.

How can alcohol affect asthma?

There are still a lot of researches about the connection between alcohol and asthma. Still, the studies have shown so far that alcohol can affect your asthma. It can make the attacks more frequent and make them worse than they normally are. The main cause of this is histamines and sulfites, the ingredients that can be found in some alcoholic drinks. Histamines are responsible for allergies, so those with allergic asthma are the first to avoid them. In alcoholic drinks, they are produced during fermentation, from bacteria and yeast. Red wine has the highest amount of histamines, so if you have asthma, you should avoid this alcoholic drink. Beer and ciders are likely to contain histamines, because of the fermentation process. Sulfites are additives that can be found in a variety of alcoholic drinks. Studies show that they affect around 10% of people with asthma and trigger the attacks. Again, red wine is the most likely to contain sulfates.

What can you drink?

Although alcohol itself is not likely to cause asthma attack, it has the ingredients that can do it. Therefore, the best option is to avoid alcohol completely. However, if you simply can’t resist having a drink or two on a Saturday night, there are some alternatives to consider. As we said, red wine contains both histamines and sulfates. As an alternative, you can opt for white wine, since it has less of these ingredients or none whatsoever. Also, 100% organic wines (both red and white) are free of sulfates – although they may still contain histamines. There are some alcoholic drinks that are very low in histamines and sulfates, or they don’t contain the at all. Spirits fall into this category, so if you really crave for a drink, it is best to go for this option. Other than alcohol, of course you can always opt for non-alcoholic drinks. However, you have to be cautious here as well. Avoid cocktails and mocktails, because the drink mixers also contain sulfates. Instead, drink freshly squeezed juices or lemonade – and you will not need to worry about asthma. Buy Antabuse or

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Alcohol reduces the risk of asthma

If you’re one of those people who drink a glass of wine now and then because you believe it’s good for your health, then you could be right. Research in recent years indicates that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is good for the blood circulation and can lead to weightloss – and now it seems that your lungs also benefit.

Researchers at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen have studied 19,349 Danish twins aged between 12 and 41 years and have looked at the relationship between alcohol consumption and the development of asthma. The participants were given questionnaires at the start and end of the eight-year study; they were asked questions about alcohol consumption and health, among other subjects.

“There are good data from the Danish register of twins, and this is a simple but good study that shows a statistical correlation between asthma and alcohol,” says Sofie Lieberoth, who quite remarkably conducted the investigation as part of her bachelor thesis during her medical studies. “And it does seem that a moderate alcohol consumption is protective in relation to the development of asthma.”

The findings were announced in September at a conference of the European Respiratory Society, held in Amsterdam and attended by thousands of researchers from around the world.

Alcohol cuts asthma risk by a third

It’s great to get all this attention on my bachelor’s thesis!

Sofie Lieberoth

According to the Danish researchers, the questionnaires reveal that the greatest risk of developing asthma exists if you do not touch alcohol at all. The risk of developing asthma is:

  • 6 percent – if you never or only rarely drink alcohol
  • 4.5 percent – if you drink a lot of alcohol
  • 4 percent – if you drink a moderate amount of alcohol, i.e. 1-6 standard measures a week

“It is very interesting if alcohol influences the development of asthma, but it is important to emphasise that further studies are needed before we can say anything about how e.g. lifestyle affects the risk,” says Lieberoth. “Studying all the factors that are connected with the development of asthma will mean that we will be able to understand the causes of the illness better.”

The researchers will not hazard any comments about why alcohol can have a protective effect, but speculation at the conference centred on alcohol’s possible anti-inflammatory character – that it destroys irritants in e.g. the body’s air passages.

Expert wants to see similar findings elsewhere

Sofie Lieberoth did her study together with Simon Francis Thomsen, Vibeke Backer, Kirsten Ohm Kyvik and Allan Linneberg, and they attracted international attention at the conference in Amsterdam.

Other Danish researchers also want to see further studies before drawing too many conclusions from the results.

“Epidemiological studies of alcohol are difficult to interpret because alcohol is connected with other lifestyle factors to a very large extent, and these factors can be the causes of asthma,” says Professor Hans Bisgaard, a consultant at the Danish Pediatric Asthma Center and one of Denmark’s leading authorities on asthma.

“Other studies have shown that alcohol seems to be related to a higher risk of asthmatic eczema,” he adds. “It is therefore vital that these new findings are repeated in other studies before their importance can be interpreted.”

The study is now being turned into a scientific article for publication in a journal.

Read the article in Danish at

Translated by: Michael de Laine

  • Professor Hans Bisgaard’s profile
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