Red wine is a common asthma trigger, new Asthma UK survey warns

A new Asthma UK survey has found that many people with asthma say alcohol triggers their symptoms – with red wine being the number one culprit.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

As new year celebrations approach, the charity is warning people with asthma to be mindful of their own triggers and to ensure their friends and family know what to do in the event of an asthma attack.

The Asthma UK survey asked 681 people with asthma about their alcohol consumption and its impact on their symptoms. Almost two-thirds of people who responded said they start wheezing after drinking alcohol, while over half said they experienced a tight chest and shortness of breath. A quarter reported having had an asthma attack after drinking alcohol.

When asked if certain alcoholic drinks triggered their asthma symptoms, 64% of survey participants said yes. Red wine was the most common of these, followed by white wine, beer and cider.

Different alcoholic drinks contain different levels of histamine and sulphites, which can sometimes be triggers for allergies and asthma. Red wine and beer are higher in histamine but low in sulphites, while white wine and cider are low in histamine but contain higher levels of sulphites. Spirits such as vodka and gin are low in both, so they may be a better option for some people who experience asthma symptoms after drinking wine, cider or beer.

The majority of survey respondents admitted they had not spoken to their GP or asthma nurse about how alcohol affects their asthma, and almost two-thirds believed that their friends or colleagues would not know what to do if they started experiencing symptoms or an asthma attack.

Sonia Munde, Head of Asthma UK Helpline & Nurse Manager, says: “Our survey findings are a warning as New Year’s Eve approaches – when people may drink more alcohol than usual.”

“If you have asthma, it’s important to be aware of your triggers, especially during the holiday season. As well as drinking safely, choose your drinks wisely – if histamine or sulphites aggravate your symptoms, avoid drinks with higher levels of these and look for alternatives.”

“Always take your reliever inhaler if you’re planning on going out for the night, and make sure that your friends and colleagues know what to do if you experience symptoms or have an asthma attack. We recommend having a picture of your up to date asthma action plan on your phone.”

Find further information and support can be found at www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/alcohol

Results from Asthma UK’s alcohol survey

Key findings

  • 61% said they start wheezing after drinking alcohol
  • 56% said they get a tight chest after drinking alcohol
  • 56% said they feel short of breath after drinking alcohol
  • 25% have had an asthma attack while drinking alcohol
  • 64% said certain alcoholic drinks trigger their asthma symptoms
  • 31% worry that drinking alcohol could affect their asthma medicines
  • 61% said their friends and colleagues would not know what to do if they started getting symptoms/having an asthma attack while out drinking
  • 87% said they haven’t spoken to their GP or asthma nurse about the ways alcohol affects their asthma

Alcoholic drinks as asthma triggers

  • Wine – 202 mentions (including: red wine 82; white wine 63, sparkling wine 30)
  • Beer (lager/ale) – 56 mentions
  • Cider – 38 mentions
  • Spirits (tequila, shots, vodka, whiskey, etc.) – 29 mentions

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact the Asthma UK media team on mediaoffice@asthma.org.uk, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

The Asthma UK Data Portal is a new online tool for journalists to access the latest figures and trends in asthma outcomes across the UK. Information on asthma facts and statistics can also be found on our website.

About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk