It is not uncommon to see our Asian friends turning red as a lobster after sipping on some alcohol. Besides the flushing, their skin might be hot to touch and their heart rate rises. Some might even complain of nausea and headaches if it gets too bad. But what causes the Asian flush and are there ways to remedy it? In this article we deconstruct the Asian flush and provide some helpful tips.
The Asian Flush
When we drink alcohol, there is a compound that builds up in our bodies called acetaldehyde. The reason some people turn red after drinking is because they lack the enzyme that breaks down the compound. Therefore, without this enzyme the body cannot process the alcohol which results in various uncomfortable symptoms.
The most common symptom is their face, chest, and arms turning red and hot. Other than that, some experience itching of the mouth, eyes, or nose. Sometimes hives or swelling will develop. Wheezing, abdominal pain, vomiting, and dizziness are also some other symptoms.
Essentially, the Asian flush is a reaction to either alcohol intolerance or an alcohol allergy. The two conditions are very similar in nature. However, alcohol intolerance is an inherited metabolic disorder. Meanwhile, an alcohol allergy is a reaction to the additives that go into creating alcoholic drinks.
First and foremost, in cases where symptoms become serious it is important to stop drinking immediately. If symptoms do not begin to subside or progress further, make sure to seek out medical treatment. When untreated, the allergic reaction can sometimes result in anaphylaxis which can be life threatening. Therefore, do not take your symptoms lightly and keep monitoring yourself.
However, if your reaction is mild and you still want to have a drink, here are some quick remedies to help. One common remedy is to take over-the-counter antihistamine pills such as cetrizine and loratadine. These pills can help to alleviate itching and hives. Just take one about an hour before you have your first drink.
Another method is to become more aware of your drinks and reactions. Some people find that they are allergic to certain ingredients. For example, barley is common in beer but not wine. Therefore, it can be worth your time to see if your allergy is limited to certain drinks. After that, it’s as simple as just avoiding those types of beverages.
Moving on, some people do find it helpful to keep cool to help combat the heat. This can include taking a cold shower, using cold wet wipes, or applying aloe vera. Additionally, being in a cool area such as a room with air-conditioning can also help.
At the end of the day, be sure to stay safe while drinking. Have drinks with people who are aware of your situation and can be there to help. Keep antihistamine with you and know where your nearest clinic is.