Does Caffeine Make Allergies Worse?
When the body's immune system reacts to normal substances, such as tree pollen or cat hair, allergic symptoms develop in the skin, lungs and internal tissues. Although caffeine is found mostly in food products, such as coffee and chocolate, it is also a drug product that has distinct effects on breathing and blood vessels. Changes in the level of caffeine in the body can affect allergy symptoms in some people.
Environmental Allergy Symptoms
When histamine increases as a result of an allergic contact, the entire body reacts. Itchy eyes and nose, cough, wheezy breathing and itchy skin occur because of greater histamine levels in the skin, lungs and internal mucous membranes. The body experiences an inflammatory reaction to the allergen that can lead to a stuffy nose, headache and sinus pressure as well.
Caffeine Effects on Breathing
Can Excess Caffeine Cause Rashes?
Caffeine is closely related to theophylline, a prescription drug used to improve breathing, and caffeine itself has been experimentally used to control some types of asthma. When wheezing occurs during an allergic reaction, the air passages are tightened, and caffeine appears to open these airways. However, caffeine effects from food are variable and likely short lived.
Cardiac Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine can cause a jittery sensation, particularly if too much is ingested at one time. This side effect results from an increased heart rate and only occurs for a short time after using caffeine. More pronounced effects on blood vessels and the heart occur because of regular caffeine use, when the cardiac system adapts to the level of caffeine normally in the diet. When caffeine is removed, headaches are likely and could worsen headaches that already exist as a result of allergic reactions.
- Caffeine can cause a jittery sensation, particularly if too much is ingested at one time.
- When caffeine is removed, headaches are likely and could worsen headaches that already exist as a result of allergic reactions.
Caffeine Dosages and Warnings
Can Caffeine Cause Hives?
Caffeine as a prescription product is dosed by weight for infants who have trouble breathing, but caffeine as a food product cannot be similarly used at consistent dosages. Although caffeine may appear to improve lung symptoms of allergic reactions, changing caffeine levels in the body can also make allergies worsen. Environmental allergies should be treated by making lifestyle changes and taking medications with health care professional approval rather than by increasing the amount of caffeine in the diet.
Can Excess Caffeine Cause Rashes?
Can Caffeine Cause Hives?
Allergic Reactions to Caffeine
Caffeine Sensitivity & Itching Skin
FDA Regulations for Caffeine
Does Cocoa Butter Contain Caffeine?
The Effects of Caffeine on Different Age Groups
Caffeine Headache Symptoms
Congestive Heart Failure & Caffeine
How Caffeine Affects the Nervous System
- FamilyDoctor.org; Allergies: Things You Can Do to Control Your Symptoms; September 2010
- KidsHealth; Caffeine Confusion; Mary L. Gavin, M.D.; September 2010
- "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews"; Caffeine for Asthma; E.J. Welsh et al.; January 2010
- Meredith SE, Juliano LM, Hughes JR, Griffiths RR. Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. J Caffeine Res. 2013;3(3):114-130. doi:10.1089/jcr.2013.0016
- Richards G, Smith AP. A Review of Energy Drinks and Mental Health, with a Focus on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. J Caffeine Res. 2016;6(2):49-63. doi:10.1089/jcr.2015.0033
- Brunyé TT, Mahoney CR, Rapp DN, Ditman T, Taylor HA. Caffeine enhances real-world language processing: evidence from a proofreading task. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2012;18(1):95-108. doi:10.1037/a0025851
- Koppelstaetter F, Poeppel TD, Siedentopf CM, et al. Caffeine and cognition in functional magnetic resonance imaging. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S71-84. doi:10.3233/JAD-2010-1417
- Harrell PT, Juliano LM. Caffeine expectancies influence the subjective and behavioral effects of caffeine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009;207(2):335-42. doi:10.1007/s00213-009-1658-5
- Lucas M, O'reilly EJ, Pan A, et al. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of completed suicide: results from three prospective cohorts of American adults. World J Biol Psychiatry. 2014;15(5):377-86. doi:10.3109/15622975.2013.795243
- Abdel-Hady H, Nasef N, Shabaan AE, Nour I. Caffeine therapy in preterm infants. World J Clin Pediatr. 2015;4(4):81-93. doi:10.5409/wjcp.v4.i4.81
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edition. Washington DC; 2013.
- Turnbull D, Rodricks JV, Mariano GF, Chowdhury F. Caffeine and cardiovascular health. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2017;89:165-185. doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2017.07.025
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol and Caffeine. Updated October 23, 2018.
- Alsunni AA. Energy Drink Consumption: Beneficial and Adverse Health Effects. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2015;9(4):468-474.
- Lyngsø J, Ramlau-Hansen CH, Bay B, Ingerslev HJ, Hulman A, Kesmodel US. Association between coffee or caffeine consumption and fecundity and fertility: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Clin Epidemiol. 2017;9:699-719. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S146496
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pure and Highly Concentrated Caffeine. Updated September 21, 2018.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Updated July 2018.
Nicole Van Hoey is a pharmacist and medical writer/editor in Washington, D.C. She has worked extensively on National Institutes of Health and trade pharmacy publications and is a contributing textbook writer on topics in infectious disease, nutrition and more. Van Hoey currently enjoys applying her drug information expertise to writings on women's health, complementary medicine and pediatrics.