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Keywords:

  • alcohol drinking;
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • atopy;
  • respiratory hypersensitivity

Summary

Background Although hypersensitivity symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption are common in asthmatics, the prevalence of such symptoms in the general population is not known.

Objective To assess the prevalence of hypersensitivity symptoms following alcoholic drink consumption in an adult Northern European general population and the association of these symptoms with the prevalence of allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma.

Methods In 2006, a postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 18–69-year-olds living in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The response rate was 70.7% (4242/6000).

Results The prevalence of alcohol-induced symptoms from the upper airways, lower airways, and skin was 7.6% [95% confidence interval (CI): 6.8–8.4%], 3.2% (95% CI: 2.7–3.8%), and 7.2% (95% CI: 6.4–8.9%), respectively. A total of 13.9% (95% CI: 12.9–15.0%) had ever experienced alcohol-induced symptoms from at least one of the three regions (upper airways, lower airways, or skin), and 9.9% (95% CI: 9.0–10.8%) had experienced symptoms in the last 12 months. All types of beverages were commonly reported as triggers of hypersensitivity symptoms, red wine being the most common. Alcohol-induced hypersensitivity symptoms from the upper and lower airways were significantly more prevalent in persons with AR and asthma (odds ratios between 3.0 and 8.1, P-value <0.001 for all associations).

Conclusions In this Northern European general population, self-reported hypersensitivity symptoms following the intake of alcoholic drinks are common. These symptoms were markedly more prevalent in persons with AR and asthma. The underlying mechanisms and the clinical significance of these symptoms remain to be elucidated.