Common asthma triggers include:
- Air irritants, such as air pollution, chemicals, and smoke
- Common allergens, such as dust mites, cockroaches, molds, and pet danders
- Medications, including over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and acetaminophen
- Weather extremes, such as very hot or cold days
Doctors will often recommend a person keep an "asthma journal." In these journals, people track their symptoms and what they were doing, eating, or drinking when an asthma attack occurred.
Symptoms of asthma
Asthma can cause acute symptoms, known as an asthma attack, or can cause less-obvious symptoms, such as a chronic cough at night. Examples of asthma symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Coughing that occurs at a certain time during the day
- Trouble catching a person's breath
Asthma is a chronic condition, so it doesn't go away even with treatment. Children often grow out of asthma and may not have any symptoms or need for medications as adults.
How does alcohol use affect asthma?
Alcohol has often been suggested as a contributor to and trigger for asthma. However, researchers haven't conducted a significant amount of research as to the specifics of alcohol and asthma.
One of the biggest research studies on the topic was published in 2000 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study from Australia asked more than 350 adults to fill out a questionnaire on their allergy triggers related to alcohol. The study's findings included:
- 33 percent said that alcohol had triggered an asthma attack on at least two occasions
- Wine was associated with being particularly allergenic
- The onset of most alcohol-related asthma symptoms occurred within 1 hour of drinking alcohol
- Most asthma symptoms reported were mild to moderate in severity
The researchers highlighted two components of some alcoholic beverages that appeared to be particularly allergenic and could contribute to an asthma attack: sulfites and histamines. Sulfites are a preservative that is commonly used in making wine and beer, but also may be added to other food types. People with asthma are often especially sensitive to the effects of sulfites.
Another potentially allergy-causing substance in alcohol is called histamine. This compound is created when alcohol is fermented. Histamine is present in all alcohol types, including liquor, beer, and wine. Histamines are common causes of allergic reactions - this is why some types of allergy medications are called antihistamines.
Complications of asthma and alcohol intake
Alcohol could also indirectly contribute to asthma symptoms. Stress is a known contributor to asthma symptoms. Some people may feel sad or stressed and turn to alcohol as a means of escape. However, excess alcohol can worsen feelings of stress and also take a toll on a person's body and health.
Asthma can have several complications on a person's health. It can affect their ability to sleep, engage in exercise, and attend work or school. If alcohol makes these symptoms worse, the complications and effects of asthma can be worsened.
Are any alcoholic drinks safer than others for people with asthma?
If a person with asthma does have alcohol-related triggers, it's important to be aware of what alcoholic drink types trigger the symptoms. According to the study mentioned above, wine is seemingly the most allergenic alcoholic beverage. Organic wines that do not have preservatives added to them may be lower in sulfites. Beer also contains sulfites that could potentially trigger asthma symptoms.
To limit the effects of alcohol on asthma, a person should keep their alcoholic beverage intake to a certain type of alcohol for the night. If it causes symptoms, a person should avoid it. If it does not, it may be a less asthma-inducing drink type.
The volume of alcohol may also contribute to worsening asthma symptoms. While a glass of wine may not cause symptoms, drinking three glasses could have enough sulfites or histamines to trigger a reaction.
It's also possible that a person cannot drink any alcohol type without having an asthmatic reaction. In this case, a person must weigh the importance of their health and severity of symptoms with their desire to drink alcohol.
Read more: Rachel Nall @ Medical News Today