Alcohol and Asthma Attacks

Alcohol and Asthma Attacks

There are increasing studies on the relationship between alcohol and asthma attacks. Did you know that asthma is among the most common Emergency Department diagnosis in America? There are several different types of triggers that induce the asthmatic response including:

  • Airborne irritants
  • Environmental allergies
  • Chemical allergies
  • Food allergies. Among the list of food allergies is an asthmatic response to alcohol.


A study published from Perth, Australia, revealed that researchers investigated  the use of alcohol as a common trigger for asthma. In this study wine appeared to be the most common alcoholic trigger.(1)

92% of those people in the survey of over 300 patients that said that alcohol triggered their asthma attacks, and said the response developed following wine consumption. Those people who reported an asthma attack after wine were more often

  • Women
  • People who take steroids
  • Or individuals who had reported their first attack at a younger age

Other Types of Alcohol

An interesting note: it also appeared that brandy, whiskey, and vodka were found to have no affect on an asthmatic response. The researchers theorized that the increased asthmatic response to alcohol is related to allergies to sulfites found in the wine.


It is important that people who have asthma are alerted to the fact that alcohol might trigger an asthmatic response. Physicians often find that patients may not feel comfortable bringing up the topic themselves, even if they have perceived a pattern of having an asthma attack after alcohol consumption. If their doctor asks in a routine and non-judgmental way, their patient may recognize it as a more common occurrence and feel it's okay to discuss without feeling embarrassed.

Related Studies

Oddly enough, in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in October 2001 researchers published a review of clinical and experimental studies, which reported that pure ethanol alcohol may have a beneficial effect on asthma. They proposed that more research should be undertaken before this treatment was used consistently. There did appear to be positive effects when used in severe life-threatening asthmatic responses.

This appears to be opposed to the rest of the research about alcohol and asthma, but on closer examination, the pure alcohol used for beneficial response has no impurities or other allergens associated with it. (2)

The link between alcohol and asthma has also been thought to be linked to a decreased enzymatic activity. In study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 1998 researchers from Nagasaki University in Japan reported that alcohol-induced asthma may be related to an abnormality of enzyme activity. (3)

Interestingly, research has found a link between positive testing for alcohol and asthma. In a study reported in the Medicina Clinica researchers found that asthmatic inhalers can trigger a positive breath alcohol response within the first few minutes. However, after 10 minutes these interferences are not noticeable.

Alcohol Intake During Pregnancy and the Asthmatic Effect on Newborns

Scientists and doctors have questioned whether maternal intake of alcohol will encourage a response of asthma in children once they are born. In the Journal of Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research in 2004, researchers from Shanghai, China found that there was no link between maternal alcohol intake during pregnancy and asthmatic reactions in the children. However, other research definitely links birth defects to children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. (4)

Research has shown there is a positive correlation between certain types of alcohol and asthma attacks. Education about asthma is the first defense against a chronic illness that affects tens of thousands of people each year. With education, prevention and carrying your medication you will be able to enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink with friends.


(1) Respiratory Reviews: Wine found to be a common culprit in alcohol-induced asthma

(2) The American Journal of Emergency Medicine: The Role of Alcohol in Asthma

(3) Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Correlation between alcohol-induced asthma and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase-2 genotype

(4) Journal of Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research: Prenatal Maternal Alcohol Consumption and Hospitalization With Asthma in Childhood: A Population-Based Follow-Up Study