There’s a story doing the rounds suggesting gin could help ease the symptoms of hay fever in sufferers. But, unfortunately, it’s not true.
Multiple publications reported that experts had said drinking clear spirits like gin could help keep the puffy eyes and sneezes at bay. It was also suggested that wine and beer should be avoided as they can exacerbate symptoms.
HuffPost UK reached out to Asthma UK and an independent GP to clarify the claims - and it turns out that it’s not the case at all.
In fact, Asthma UK said: “Alcohol can actually increase sensitivity to pollen, so our advice is that it may be worth avoiding it when the pollen count is high.”
Hay fever is very common, affecting roughly one in five people in the UK. It is closely linked to asthma, with 80% of people with asthma saying they have a pollen allergy too.
This tenuous link is where the problem started.
Asthma UK’s in-house GP, Dr Andy Whittamore, was quoted as suggesting that some types of alcohol can trigger asthma. However, publications then applied the same logic to hay fever.
“Alcoholic drinks contain histamine, which is found at particularly high levels in red wine and some beers,” explained Dr Whittamore.
“Histamine is the same substance that is released in the body when you have an allergic reaction and in some people, may trigger asthma symptoms.
“You should avoid these drinks if you know they are a trigger for you.”
Additionally Asthma UK said some alcoholic drinks, like wine, contain preservatives called sulphites, which can also trigger symptoms of asthma. Not necessarily hay fever.
Dr Whittamore said clear spirits like gin and vodka are lower in histamines, potentially making them a better choice for asthma sufferers.
He continued: “No matter what your tipple of choice, drink according to recommended safe limits and continue to carry your reliever inhaler with you.”
In response to the claims, Dr Helen Webberley, a GP who runs the online healthcare service My Web Doctor, said she’s not even sure the histamine theory would “stand the rigour of scientific testing”.
She told HuffPost UK: “Histamine is produced by the body in response to a potential allergy, but ingesting histamine may not have the same reaction in the body.
“People who are allergic to substances such as pollens or grasses produce too much histamine and this causes sniffs and sneezes, but ingesting it doesn’t follow the same logic.
“However, there is no doubt that people do react to certain foods or drinks in their own right.”