The role of alcohol in asthma: a review of clinical and experimental studies

Am J Emerg Med. 2001 Oct;19(6):501-3. doi: 10.1053/ajem.2001.27171.


Asthma is among the most common ED diagnoses. Asthma exacerbations are generally treated by medications that cause bronchodilation and those that reduce airway inflammation. The effect of alcohol on asthma has been studied by investigators with mixed results. Some studies have reported that alcohol has a beneficial effect on asthma; others report worsening of symptoms. It has been suggested in some quarters that additives in alcoholic drinks cause bronchoconstriction and that pure ethanol has a salutary effect on asthma. If further research bears out this supposition, ethanol may play a limited therapeutic role in asthma that is refractory to other therapy. Emergency physicians should counsel asthmatic patients to avoid alcoholic beverages because they may cause an exacerbation of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Asthma / genetics
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol