What Is a Red Wine Headache?

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  • Written By: Kathleen Howard
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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A red wine headache (RWD) is a painful headache brought on by consuming red wine. These types of headaches can occur after drinking as few as one glass and are sometimes accompanied by nausea. Some people believe that certain substances found in red wine, specifically sulfites, tannins, histamines and tyramines, are to blame for red wine headaches. While the exact cause of these headaches is still unknown as of 2011, there are ways to lessen the effects of a red wine headache. People who suffer from these headaches can experiment with different red wines, take antihistamines, or avoid this type of alcohol to prevent future discomfort.

For a headache to be considered a red wine headache, it must occur within minutes of consuming red wine. A red wine headache is not the same as a hangover. Hangovers typically occur at least six hours after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. Red wine headaches also differ from alcohol allergies and other negative reactions, such as the Asian flush experienced by many people of Asian descent. People who suffer from red wine headaches can usually drink other types of alcohol without experiencing negative effects.


Medical experts are not exactly sure why some people suffer from red wine headaches. While these headaches must be caused by something in red wine, researchers have not pinpointed which substance is to blame. The compounds most commonly accused of causing headaches are sulfites, tannins, histamines and tyramines. Still, researchers are uncertain as to whether one or several of these compounds are capable of causing headaches in a significant portion of the population.

While the cause of these headaches is currently unknown, there are ways to prevent red wine headaches from occurring. To prevent a headache, an individual can experiment with different red wines to determine which wine he or she is sensitive to. Some wines might bring on a headache, while others will leave an individual unaffected. To test a wine, take a few sips within a 15 to 20 minute period. If the wine does not cause a headache within this time frame, the individual can probably continue drinking the glass without consequence.

Wine drinkers can also prevent a negative reaction by taking an antihistamine or avoiding red wine completely. If the histamine content of a wine is to blame, taking an antihistamine before consuming red wine should prevent future discomfort. To avoid dangerous side effects, users should determine whether a specific antihistamine is safe to combine with alcohol. If this method does not work, completely avoiding red wine might be the best way to avoid a red wine headache.


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Post 1

I get red wine headaches, as well as wine flush. So I don't drink wine that much. I cook with it, but I rarely drink it.

For a red wine headache, I take an Aleve and a Benadryl, and that usually knocks it out. But that doesn't keep my face from turning as red as the wine in the glass, and making me entirely too warm. I think it's the getting too warm that induces the nausea. This can happen after one glass, so I'm not apt to drink much; it just makes bad matters worse.

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