Beer Allergy

By Heather Legg

For the past few years, my husband has had a mysterious swelling of his eyes. We’ve tried hard to pinpoint the cause of this allergic reaction, but never have come up with a consistent factor. Food has never been a consistent factor, or season, or environment. Sometimes it’s worse than others, sometimes not so bad. Sometimes the whites of his eyes even swell, and that has got to be uncomfortable! The other night it happened and both eyes were completely swollen shut in the middle of the night. In the midst of this attack he finally came up with a possible culprit – certain beer.

Like I said, there never has been a consistent factor, one time it even happened in the hospital and another at our neighborhood swim meet, obviously no alcohol was in play at either of these times. However, what we never really thought about was that an allergen can stay in the body for up to about four days before causing a reaction. We usually think of immediate allergic reactions, but that is not always the case. But we still didn’t think of beer because he often drinks it with no reaction.

The other night however, he realized he was drinking a certain kind that he normally doesn’t drink. After thinking about it, he remembered that the past times it has happened, he had drunk micro brewed beer sometime over the past few days before it happened. Even this last time, the swelling occurred in the middle of the night, long after the last beer.

I was looking on line and came upon a chat about beer allergies and there is a whole list of mysterious symptoms that people are putting together as beer allergies – rashes on the palms of the hands, debilitating headaches (not in proportion to the amount of beer drunk, by the way), rashes on the chin, nausea and vomiting, again not in the sense of hangover. It’s also all different beers for different people. Some seem to have trouble with big name domestics, while that is the kind that my husband tolerates best. Others have trouble with more designer beers or just any kind of beer, but not other types of alcohol. That could be more of a wheat or yeast reaction, I think.

It has never gotten to a dangerous point with my husband as in the sense of anaphylaxis, but it is worrisome. He can sometimes feel it coming on and catch it with a couple of Benadryl, other times it happens in the middle of the night and he wakes up to the swollen eyes. Then it takes almost a full day for the swelling to go down and the antihistamines to wear off. So I guess he will stick to Budweiser and avoid the others, and we will see what happens. Sure, beer is easy to avoid, but a cold drink sure is good now and then.

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