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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Itching after alcohol
I LIKE TO GO OUT TO DINNER ABOUT ONCE A MONTH AND HAVE A ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE WITH MY MEAL. I START ITCHING AFTER I DRINK THE BEVERAGE. SHOULD I CONTINUE TO DRINK OR SHOULD I AVOID ALCOHOL ALL TOGETHER?
There are many potential reasons for this reaction. Itching could be the result of ones inability to metabolize alcohol (certain enzyme deficiencies in Asian and American Indian ethnic groups make it difficult to metabolize acetaldehyde) or the type of alcohol ingested (i.e., some wines contain histamine or sulfites that can elicit reactions). However, there may be multiple cofactors for this reaction. You should make sure you have no liver abnormalities and there are no other causes of itching such as kidney disease, diabetes, blood disorders... In other words, you should have some baseline laboratory tests from your primary care physician to exclude other causes. If you only experience itching and it doesn't progress to other symptoms (i.e., hives and/or soft tissue swelling or asthma...) and you enjoy drinking alcohol, you can try taking an over the counter antihistamine (i.e., loratidine, cetirizine) before going out to see if this helps.
Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati