MayoClinic.com indicates that more often than not, some people are actually experiencing alcohol intolerance when they believe they are experiencing symptoms of an alcohol allergy. Alcohol intolerance is a genetic condition characterized by the body’s difficulty in breaking down alcohol. This intolerance is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). This enzyme is needed to metabolize alcohol into acetic acid or vinegar. When alcohol intolerance occurs, the toxicity that occurs in the body increases; the resulting symptoms are the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins. Treatment is similar to other food allergy remedies.
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For mild cases of alcohol intolerance, a patient’s physician may recommend he take an over-the-counter antihistamine. An antihistamine can reduce the reactive symptoms caused by the irritants in the alcohol. An antihistamine can also help to relieve symptoms of itching or the development of hives as a result of the consumption of alcohol.
In moderate to severe cases of alcohol intolerance, a patient’s physician may provide her with a prescription for epinephrine. Epinephrine is administered as a shot of adrenaline in the form of an autoinjector. An autoinjector is a syringe that resembles a pen that contains individual doses of epinephrine.
The autoinjector is inserted into the thigh for quick administration and distribution throughout the body via the femoral artery. Patients should carry an autoinjector with them at all times in the event that they consume alcohol and experience a reaction.
Patients with asthma who also have an alcohol intolerance report various symptoms related to difficulty in breathing. For this reason, asthma patients may be prescribed an inhaler, if they do not already use one. Similarly, asthma patients should always carry their inhaler as a point of precaution.
As a part of the treatment plan for alcohol intolerance, physicians generally advise patients to abstain from consuming alcohol, because the symptoms can often vary, making it difficult for the patient to seek immediate treatment.