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Aspirin-Exacerbated Respiratory Disease and Alcohol Sensitivity

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Many people with aspirin sensitivity, nasal polyps, and asthma (AERD) may also experience an allergy-like response to drinking alcohol.

Aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) is an extreme sensitivity to the most common pain relief medications in the world known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.) These include aspirin (Anacin, Bayer, Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), and naproxen (Aleve).

Adults with asthma and nasal polyps are more likely to have AERD.

AERD causes respiratory problems, such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose within an hour of taking NSAIDs. It can also mean breathing problems, such as shortness of breath and wheezing, that lead to an asthma attack.

About 80% of patients with AERD experience mild-to-moderate respiratory problems, such as a stuffy or runny nose, after drinking alcohol. Alcoholic beverages also double the risk of asthma attacks.

Even having one serving of alcohol can trigger a response similar to an allergic reaction. Red wine and beer are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than hard liquor.

Reactions to alcohol can be due to certain naturally occurred chemicals— polyphenols found in the grape skin, barley, and hops.

Aspirin desensitization is the most effective treatment to reduce reactions to alcohol for most patients with AERD. Gradually-increased doses of aspirin are introduced to patients for several days until their immune system will accept the medication without reacting to it.

If you haven’t undergone aspirin desensitization, you should avoid all NSAIDs and alcohol.

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