ZocdocAnswersWhy do I get a red rash on my neck when I drink beer?

Question

Why do I get a red rash on my neck when I drink beer?

I am a 25 year old female. I have noticed just in the past couple of years that I get a red splotchy rash on my neck when I drink beer. I thought it might be an allergic reaction, but it doesn't happen all of the time when I drink beer. I have tried switching to a different kind of beer, but I still have random outbreaks of this rash.

Answer

It is unlikely that you have an allergy to beer or to alcohol. Although there are rare cases of documented allergies to alcohol, this is very uncommon. However, another condition is quite common. This is a deficiency in an enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. When alcohol is broken down in the body, it is first broken down to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase then breaks it down further to harmless products that are excreted from the body. If you have a deficiency in this enzyme, the acetaldehyde builds up in the body, and this causes the flushing red reaction that you have noticed. This condition is not a serious medical problem if alcohol consumption remains very moderate, and most people who have it consider it to be just a minor inconvenience. However, in people who consume large amounts of alcohol, the acetaldehyde may act as a carcinogen and dispose them to higher risk of certain types of cancer. There is no cure for this condition, as it is an enzyme deficiency within the body. The best solution is to avoid or drink alcohol only in moderation. Talk to your primary care doctor if you have further questions or concerns about what is going on!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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