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Study finds alcohol triggers asthma symptoms

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Study finds asthma symptoms made worse by booze

According to an Asthma UK survey, 75% of people with asthma say alcohol triggers their symptoms. Red wine is the main culprit, followed by white wine, beer and then cider. 

Actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry finds champagne can lead to symptoms: “I have to make sure that I avoid too much champagne because it triggers my asthma symptoms,” he says. “Champagne can leave a lot of people feeling poorly the next day, but for me it is far more serious because it could trigger a potentially fatal asthma attack.”

Usually different substances found in alcoholic drinks, rather than the alcohol itself, are responsible for asthma symptoms, according to current research. As well as ethanol (pure alcohol), alcoholic drinks contain histamine.In some people, the histamine in alcohol drinks may trigger asthma symptoms.

Preservatives called sulphites are added to some alcoholic drinks, including wine. Between 3% and 10% of people with asthma are sensitive to sulphites, and symptoms can vary from mild wheezing to a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

People are most likely to notice symptoms almost immediately after drinking, but sensitivity varies. Some may be able to have one or two drinks without noticing symptoms, whereas others may have symptoms after just a few sips.

Scientists are still not sure exactly how alcoholic drinks cause asthma symptoms, so people should always keep an inhaler handy when they are drinking, in case they get symptoms, says Asthma UK.

Also, it is important to remember that triggers can change, so even if people notice an alcoholic drink has only recently become a trigger, that’s not unusual. And responses to a trigger tend to be worse when asthma isn’t well managed.


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