The short answer to “Can you develop an allergy to alcohol later in life?” is YES!!

I know this because this happened to me. I was a drinker in my early and mid thirties. I had no issues whatsoever with allergies to alcohol. I quit drinking. Started drinking again in my mid forties. My drinking was at the level of getting drunk about 3 nights a week. (yes I WAS an alcoholic which has something to do with allergy to alcohol which I will explain). After two years of drinking all of a sudden one night I thought I was having a stroke.

That is probably the best way to describe allergic reactions to alcohol for someone who never experienced it for themselves. The symptoms I was having made me think I was having a stroke because I had never even heard of alcohol allergy before.

My symptoms to drinking that night hit quick and hard and included:

  • Sensation of intense pressure in my head and congestion. This was the biggest and first symptom.
  • Feeling like someone was sticking pins in my face. A prickly sensation all over
  • Beet red face. It looked like I was blushing very bad
  • Red blotches. Red patches started showing up on my shoulders, chest, arms, and legs
  • Racing pulse. It could also feel my pulse throbbing in my veins almost like my pulse was too intense or hard

Those were my main symptoms. At the time I had absolutely no idea that this had anything to do with alcohol allergic reactions to alcohol at all simply because I had never heard of such a thing.

I had discounted my symptoms at the time and thought they were just some weird fluke but the one thing I do remember is that the whole experience definitely ruined enjoying my drinking.

These symptoms of allergy to alcohol continued to show up over the next two years but NOT on a regular basis which was also puzzling. I could drink several times over a couple of weeks and then all of a sudden the symptoms would hit again.

I actually ended up quitting drinking at 48 and these symptoms had a lot to do with that. Although I STILL have no idea what these symptoms were I DID have the common sense to realize that these symptoms I had when I drank booze were my bodies way of rebelling and telling me to stop.

The reason I developed an allergy to alcohol later in life was after two years of regular drinking my bodies ability to handle and break down alcohol was reduced. With some people (particularly Asians because of genetics) their ability to handle and break down alcohol is heredity. In other words 50% of the Asian population will get these symptoms when then drink alcohol even if they rarely drink or they have no addictions to alcohol whatsoever.

This allergy to alcohol and its symptoms is referred to as the Asian Flush, Asian Glow, or Asian Girl Glow. The cause of my symptoms when drinking booze was that I was abusing my body. People who only drink socially who get these symptoms have a true allergy to alcohol. In these people these symptoms are not your bodies way of telling you to quit drinking but instead it is caused by a “genetic defect” that greatly reduces your bodies ability to handle alcohol.

For people like me (people who drink to excess both in terms of frequency and volume) the answer is to QUIT DRINKING! For people who do not have a drinking problem and instead have the Asian Flush the symptoms ARE treatable.