Why alcohol causes sinus congestion

The sinus congestion that occurs after consuming alcoholic beverages is due to intolerance and the elevated level of histamine present in alcohol. An initial sign of alcohol intolerance and histamine sensitivity is sinus congestion and flushing of the skin. Take note that the issue is usually denoted as an allergy to alcohol, but diagnosed accurately as intolerance.

Intolerance is basically a genetic condition in which the body of an individual could not break down the alcohol, thus resulting to complications. Both wine and beer are packed with histamine which results to sinus congestion.

What are the causes?

The main cause of alcohol intolerance is a genetic trait in which the body could not break down alcohol properly. Among those who have alcohol intolerance, the digestive system lacks an enzyme to properly digest alcohol. Even the ingredients present in alcoholic beverages can also instigate an allergic reaction including sinus congestion. These include certain preservatives such as grains specifically wheat and sulfur dioxide.

Sinus congestion

It is important to note that nasal congestion can occur due to the inflammation in the sinus cavity.

Some alcoholic beverages particularly wine contain histamine. Take not that histamine is naturally present in the body which helps the immune system fight off harmful substances. Elevated amounts of histamine in the soft tissues such as the sinuses can result to irritation and inflammation.

Nasal congestion

It is important to note that nasal congestion can occur due to the inflammation in the sinus cavity. The histamine present in alcohol or produced during an allergic reaction due to intolerance can cause nasal congestion. Once the histamine is released, the sinuses become inflamed and irritated which prevents the mucus within the sinuses from draining.

The other potential symptoms that go along with nasal congestion include problems with breathing via the nose, runny nose, sneezing episodes as well as postnasal drip and sinus headaches. The nasal congestion that occurs after consuming alcoholic beverages should not last for more than 3 days. If it persists, it might be an indication of another health issue. If you want to properly manage this symptom, click here.

What are the other possible symptoms?

Aside from nasal congestion, intolerance to alcohol can cause the skin to itch and swell. Even digestive issues can occur such as nausea, heartburn, vomiting, abdominal pain and gas. In case the individual is asthmatic, he/she can develop a severe reaction when alcohol is consumed. Other possible symptoms that can occur include jitters and increased heart rate.


Avoidance of alcoholic beverages is the best way to prevent the usual symptoms of alcohol intolerance including sinus congestion. Once congestion develops, the individual should drink warm liquids and use steam from a hot shower to soothe and open up the sinus passages. It is also recommended to increase the intake of water and fruit juices to keep the mucus thin and promote drainage.

A doctor must be consulted if the individual develops moderate to severe reactions after drinking alcohol. Once the throat swells, hives occur or there is difficulty in breathing, bring the individual to the emergency department since it might be an anaphylactic reaction. In case the sinus congestion is linked with severe pain and fever, it might be a sinus infection.


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