Does your face turn red after you drink alcohol? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone. More than one in three people from east Asian heritage (Japanese, Chinese and Korean) experience facial flushing after they’ve consumed beer, wine or spirits. It is colloquially known as ‘Asian flush’.

Alcohol flush reaction is said to originate among the Han Chinese in central China. Over the centuries, it has spread throughout East Asia. Since it’s a genetic condition, there is no cure. It is caused by an inherited deficiency in one of the enzymes involved with the breakdown of alcohol, aldehyde dehydrogenase.

In fact, it’s more than just a reddening to the face. According to the experts at House Call Doctor, there are positive and negative health implications associated with this flush reaction. Individuals who suffer from flush reactions may be less prone to alcoholism. Those who have aldehyde dehydrogenase and avoid excessive drinking are much less at risk of alcohol-related cancers. However, if you have aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency but still drink, you’re at a higher risk of alcohol-related cancer such as that of the oesophagus (the tube between your mouth and your stomach).

Some people not only experience flushed skin but also suffer from other associated side effects including nausea, headache, general discomfort and a rapid heartbeat.

Unfortunately, as this is a genetic issue, there’s currently no treatment for the flush reaction some people experience. In terms of prevention, there is also no available options other than not drinking alcohol.

Similar conditions

As well as alcohol flush reaction, people tend to be affected by similar conditions including:

  • Red ear syndrome: As the name suggests, this syndrome causes people to have a red ear, thought to be triggered by alcohol (among other causes).
  • Carcinoid syndrome: This typically affects a person with episodes of severe flushing often triggered by alcohol, stress and particular foods.