J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract 2014 Mar-Apr;2(2):208-13.
Division of Rheumatology, Immunology, and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass; Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. Electronic address:
Background: A large percentage of patients with aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) report the development of alcohol-induced respiratory reactions, but the true prevalence of respiratory reactions caused by alcoholic beverages in these patients was not known.
Objective: We sought to evaluate the incidence and characteristics of alcohol-induced respiratory reactions in patients with AERD.
Methods: A questionnaire designed to assess alcohol-induced respiratory symptoms was administered to patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Scripps Clinic. At least 50 patients were recruited into each of 4 clinical groups: (1) patients with aspirin challenge-confirmed AERD, (2) patients with aspirin-tolerant asthma (ATA), (3) patients with aspirin tolerance and with chronic rhinosinusitis, and (4) healthy controls. Two-tailed Fisher exact tests with Bonferroni corrections were used to compare the prevalence of respiratory symptoms among AERD and other groups, with P ≤ .017 considered significant.
Results: The prevalence of alcohol-induced upper (rhinorrhea and/or nasal congestion) respiratory reactions in patients with AERD was 75% compared with 33% with aspirin-tolerant asthma, 30% with chronic rhinosinusitis, and 14% with healthy controls (P < .001 for all comparisons). The prevalence of alcohol-induced lower (wheezing and/or dyspnea) respiratory reactions in AERD was 51% compared with 20% in aspirin-tolerant asthma and with 0% in both chronic rhinosinusitis and healthy controls (P < .001 for all comparisons). These reactions were generally not specific to one type of alcohol and often occurred after ingestion of only a few sips of alcohol.
Conclusion: Alcohol ingestion causes respiratory reactions in the majority of patients with AERD, and clinicians should be aware that these alcohol-induced reactions are significantly more common in AERD than in controls who are aspirin tolerant.