With a rash of new inhaler-type treatments, more effective drugs like kinase inhibitors, and the promise of immunotherapy, what gets lost in the shuffle for asthmatics is what brings on an asthmatic attack. Some asthmatics learn the hard way that alcohol can set off their asthma. A study by the University of Western Australia published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that alcohol brings on the symptoms of asthma. Forty-three percent of study patients had allergic reactions to various alcoholic drinks, while 33 percent said the alcohol alone brought on asthmatic reactions like wheezing and coughing. One in four had to hit the inhaler after drinking.
Asthma attacks triggered by alcohol reportedly came on in less than an hour, were moderate in severity and more common in women. People who took oral steroids had more reactions, and so did those who were children when they were originally diagnosed asthmatic.
Alcohol doesn't cause asthma, it worsens asthma symptoms. The reactions could be the result of the alcohol on the body as well as the sulfites found in wine and some spirits and malted beverages. Wine was the most frequent trigger in this study, red wine being the most common trigger, followed by white wine. Sulfites seldom bother non-asthmatics.
Another reason alcohol can be a trigger: Boozing it up can cause acid reflux and stomach fluid can bubble up into air passages causing swelling and the wheezing. Beer isn't off the hook. Fermented drinks are complex combinations of naturally occurring chemicals that resemble histamines. Asthmatics may react with asthma symptoms. Even non-asthmatics react to histamines and get a stuffy nose from beer excess – thus the term “having a snoot full.” Another reason sobriety is a better thing to have, than to lack.
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