Caffeine Allergy

There are many people around the world who drink coffee to keep them up early in the morning. Coffee contains caffeine, a natural drug that stimulates the nervous system. But what effect can caffeine have on the body if the person is allergic to it? Read on to find out.

Some people do not metabolize caffeine as well as others and it pays to know your limits with it. If you think that it is causing problems or causing an undesirable effect, this can be tested by eliminating it from the diet. But a quick visit to the doctor or an allergist is always the safest way to be sure.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is found in various plants around the world, including coffee beans, tea leaves, and cacao pods. While it is safe for most people, some individuals have a caffeine intolerance or caffeine allergy. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that affects the brain and central nervous system, making drinkers feel more alert.

Sensitivity vs. Allergy

People who are sensitive to caffeine experience symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, anxiety, jitteriness, headaches, trouble sleeping, and upset stomach. The effects of caffeine sensitivity are bothersome, but relatively minor. But that is not the case for people who have caffeine allergy. If you live with this allergy, consuming a small amount can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.

Caffeine Allergy Symptoms

  • Hives/itchy red rashes with many bumps on the skin
  • Swelling of the lips and tongue
  • Itchy mouth, lips, and tongue

These symptoms may begin shortly or occur within an hour of consuming caffeine. Since it is not a well-known type of allergy, you may sometimes equate the symptoms with an allergy. A severe allergy can also produce anaphylaxis symptoms which include:

  • swollen throat or tongue
  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • coughing

Causes of Caffeine Allergy

Since caffeine affects different people in different ways, the effects it has on someone who is allergic to it are not the same as for someone who is caffeine intolerant. Symptoms of caffeine sensitivity are triggered by a sudden rush of adrenaline, while people with a caffeine intolerance metabolize caffeine slowly.

Caffeine allergy develops when the immune system perceives it as an invader. The antibody prompts their cells to release histamine, to flush out the molecules or allergens that it perceived as harmful. This results in inflammation which leads to hives, itching, and swelling.

Why does an allergic reaction to caffeine happen?

While there is no concrete explanation as to why this type of allergy occurs in a person, there are experts who tried to explore and shed light on this.  A study by a team of experts from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, suggests that people’s response to caffeine is related to genetics. Another research that was published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, suggested that it might be caused by the dust that comes from the beans before they are roasted, that acts as an allergen. Finally, a study published in 2017 suggested that a type of mold on coffee beans may be the cause of allergies.

Allergy Treatment

If you experience symptoms of a caffeine allergy, the best thing to do is to stop eating any food or drink that might contain caffeine and contact your doctor right away. Over the counter antihistamine may help reduce any itching, swelling, or hives. In case of an anaphylactic shock, contact emergency services right away.


Aside from avoiding foods that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, chocolates, and energy drinks, you may want to consult your doctor to help you find other ways to stay alert. Taking regular breaks, walking, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy foods may not only help you cut out caffeine, and stay alert, but also to stay healthy.

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