Can alcohol cause sinus congestion?

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Sinus congestion that is caused by alcohol consumption is due to alcohol intolerance and increased levels of histamine present in these beverages. One of the initial indications of alcohol intolerance and histamine sensitivity is no other than sinus congestion and flushing of the skin.

This condition is typically referred to as an alcohol allergy, but diagnosed accurately as intolerance. When it comes to intolerance, it is a genetic condition in which the body of the individual could not properly break down the alcohol which leads to various complications. Take note that wine and beer are packed with histamine that can lead to sinus congestion.

What are the causes?

Sinus congestion
Take note that wine and beer are packed with histamine that can lead to sinus congestion.

The main cause of alcohol intolerance is a genetic trait where the body could not break down alcohol properly. Among individuals who have alcohol intolerance, the digestive tract lacks the right enzymes to effectively digest alcohol.

The components or ingredients present in alcoholic beverages can also trigger allergic reactions that can result to sinus congestion. Preservatives such as sulfur dioxide as well as the grains utilized in producing some alcoholic beverages are to blame. Certain beverages specifically wine contain histamine. Take note that histamine is a naturally occurring compound present in the body that helps the immune system combat harmful substances. Excess amounts of histamine in the soft tissues such as the sinuses can result to irritation and inflammation.

Nasal congestion reaction

It is important to note that nasal congestion occurs due to the inflammation in the sinus cavity. The histamine present in alcohol or histamine generated during an allergic reaction due to intolerance results to sinus congestion.

Once histamine is released, the sinuses become inflamed and irritated which prevents the mucus inside the sinuses from draining. Other symptoms linked with sinus congestion include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing via the nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing episodes
  • Sinus pressure headaches
  • Postnasal drip

The congestion due to consumption of alcohol should not persist for more than 3 days. In case the sinus congestion persists, it might indicate another condition.

Other possible symptoms

Aside from the sinus congestion, alcohol intolerance is capable of causing inflamed and itchy skin. Digestive tract issues might include heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain, gas and vomiting. In the event an individual is also diagnosed with asthma, he/she can end up with a severe reaction upon consumption of alcohol. Other symptoms might include increased heart rate and jitters.


It is vital to avoid consumption of alcoholic beverages. This is the only way to prevent common symptoms from alcohol intolerance, including sinus congestion. Once this develops, provide the individual with warm liquids and utilize steam from a hot shower to soothe and open up the inflamed sinus passages. In addition, increasing the amount of water and fruit juices can help keep the mucus thin and promote drainage.

Considerations to bear in mind

A doctor should be consulted if the individual continues to develop moderate to severe reactions upon consumption of alcohol. In case the throat starts to swell, there is difficulty breathing and hives break out, bring the individual to the nearest emergency department to ensure that he/she is not experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. Take note that the sinus congestion linked with severe pain and fever might be due to a sinus infection.

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