Why Do I Get a Red Face When I Drink?

You Asked, We Answered

red face

Ever wonder why you get a red face when you drink? when you’re enjoying your drink of choice, you suddenly feel like your face is on fire? You’re hot, sometimes sweaty, and visibly red. This annoying problem is quite common, so much so that it has a name. It can happen to anyone, and it does, for a few different reasons…

Usually, it has to do with how your body metabolizes the alcohol. Or, more accurately, how it doesn’t. Inside your body, alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde. If your body has trouble metabolizing it, the capillaries in your face (and sometimes elsewhere) will dilate, and cause that red color and warm feeling. This is sometimes called the Alcohol Flush Reaction, or AFR.

Sometimes AFR can indicate a bigger problem.

While irritating but generally harmless, this flush is sometimes a sign of a bigger problem, such as high blood pressure, alcohol intolerance, or even an alcohol allergy. There is even some evidence that those who suffer from AFR have a higher risk of esophageal cancer.

On the plus side, sufferers are also less likely to develop alcoholism. Maybe because being blotchy and flushed all the time is unpleasant? I mean, it’s not rocket science.

But Why Does AFR Happen?

Genetics. Thanks, Mom and Dad. People of East Asian decent tend to be at the highest risk, because of a gene coding variant that causes them to convert alcohol into acetaldehyde more efficiently than people with other gene variants. I want to say “good job,” but it isn’t any fun. And sadly, there isn’t a cure.

Got a question about AFR? Ask your doctor! This is a blog, meant for entertainment purposes, and maybe to teach you something. But we don’t diagnose, so please leave that responsibility to someone with medical malpractice insurance.

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