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Does Drinking Alcohol Make Asthma Worse

Updated on July 17, 2012

When I Found Out Alcohol Was An Asthma Trigger for Me

I have asthma that was caused by smoking cigarettes, and is pretty much controlled with an inhaler. When I was on a cruise to the Bahamas last year with my husband, we were drinking a ton of alcohol. One night, while we were out enjoying ourselves in the casino and loving the free drinks we were getting, I had one of the worst asthma attacks I had ever had. Why was this? I really had no clue at the time. Generally speaking, I do not drink alcohol often. The next opportunity I had to drink was at a friend's party about 2 months later. Again, I had a horrible asthma attack.


What Makes Alcohol Be An Asthma Trigger


The airways of asthmatics are extra sensitive. People like me react to things called triggers, that make asthma symptoms start or worsen. When those who have asthma get close to triggers, their airways may become swollen, tight, and produce and excessive amount of mucous, causing them to have a lot of trouble breathing. Also, they may begin to cough, wheeze, get congested, have a runny nose and itchy eyes.

What in the world did drinking alcohol have to do with causing my asthma to worsen?

What I Found

New research indicates that alcoholic drinks are a common trigger for asthma. This can occur after having just one drink. In a high percentage of cases, most reactions occurred quickly and were reversible with simple therapy. In addition, for some reason or another that is not yet understood, this trigger is more inherent to women who drink than to men.


Wine has been found to be the most common and biggest culprit of alcohol induced asthma triggers. Both red and white wine are indicated to cause this, but champagne is not. Researchers have also established that there is a complex connection with wine induced asthma and asthma triggered by foods that have sulfites in them. Other characteristics of wine may also cause asthma exacerbations.


Sulfites are defined as a salt or ester of sulfurous acid. They occur naturally, to some extent, in most wines. Sulfites are most commonly used to stop the fermentation process at a certain time. They may also be added to wine to prevent it from spoiling and oxidizing during several layers of the wine making process. Sulfites are also used as preservatives in foods such as mashed potato flakes, dried fruits, bottled lemon or lime juice, and shrimp.

Other Alcohol

Researchers have found that beer causes reactions in only 30% of people who have reported a sensitivity to alcohol. Whisky and vodka were shown to cause a very small number of reactions in asthmatics. This last category seems to be the one I fit in, as I have found all kinds of alcohol to be a trigger for me.

Alcohol is only one trigger that many asthmatics face. For safety and health, I strongly encourage all asthmatics to know what their triggers are and to try your best to avoid them.

Have you, as an asthmatic, ever had an attack after drinking alcohol.

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