Alcohol and asthma

First, a brief history:

I was diagnosed with asthma and allergies when I was about 7. Because of this I had to get shots, take pills, use an inhaler, and make occasional trips to the emergency room. As I got older, however, it gradually went away. I quit getting shots in high school, quit taking pills in college, and haven’t used my inhaler in 3 1/2 years. Yay for me. Now we get to…

my question:

Sometimes, if I’m having a few drinks, I experience a shortness of breath right at the onset of a buzz. This lasts for about 5-10 minutes but has never been intense enough to send me running to the medicine cabinet to retrieve my inhaler from the cobwebs. Anyone know what causes this? Anyone ever have a similar experience?

First, you should see your doctor about this. Asthma can be life-threatening; if you & those around you are “buzzing”, calling 911 might not seem as urgent as it should.

I have treated a fair number of asthmatics, & haven’t heard this one before, but can at least theorize one explanation. Some people release more of a compound called “histamine” after drinking ethanol. Since histamine is a major player in triggering allergic symptoms, it could easily cause bronchospasm & mimic an asthma attack.

Expect to hear the obvious solution (don’t get buzzed) from your doc, but carrying a non-dusty inhaler, at a minimum, would seem prudent.

Sue from El Paso

Red wines and dark beer could trigger an attack.

I too had asthma as a child (well, into early adulthood) and used to spend a week in the hospital every summer. I used the inhaler (Isuprel) until I was about 25 years old. It went away, thank Ja.

However, when I used to drink Sangria or other alcoholic beverages containing fruit juices, I would sometimes experience the same shortness of breath you describe. It’s not quite an asthma attack, per se since there is really no wheezing, right? But bothersome nevertheless.

Sangria contains phenomenal amounts of fructose, alcohol (and) red wine, but I seem to have narrowed the culprit down to the fructose, since drinking greyhounds (grapefruit juice and vodka) illicited the same distressing symptoms. However, I started to notice the effect any time I drank any type of alcoholic to excess, (and believe me, my research was “exhaustive”) so
this theory came to naught.

See your doctor if you’re worried, as asthma can recur in adulthood. I’ve been free of it for about 25 years now and hope you too can stay clear. Happy breathing!

Sucks to your assmar.
– Afterthought

While I enjoyed the mental picture this inadvertantly created, I’m sure Nickrz meant elicited…

Sue from El Paso

A chat buddy told me that asthma inhalers can trip the breathalyzer (sp?) tests that the cops use. I am skeptical. Is it possbile to blow a high B/A right after a hit from the inhaler?

It’s certainly true that some modern inhalers contain ethanol as a substitute for the previously used HFC’s (which are being phased out for environmental reasons), but i’m not sure if one or two puffs will contain sufficient ethanol to trip the breathalyser.

Argh. Good catch, Sue.
Happy B-day, btw.

Thanks x2.

Thanks, Nickrz and Sue. Just so you know, I was asking the question out of curiosity rather than concern. Nickrz, I think you summed up the sensation pretty well - nothing severe enough to make me call 911. Incidentally, the “inhaler in the cobwebs” thing was an exageration. I have inhalers (albeit probably expired) at my house, in my desk at work, in my overnight bag, and in my backpack.

For a second, I considered trying the breathalyzer thing with an inhaler and those breathalyzer sticks from the store. But, it’s been 3 1/2 years since I last used my inhaler and I don’t want to use it again unless I absolutely have to. (Not even in the interest of science!)